By Pete Chiodo
There is no column in the standings for how pretty a win is. So the Meadville hockey team simply gets another notch on the positive side of its Lakeshore Hockey League slate thanks to its 5-2 victory over Fort LeBoeuf, recorded Monday night at the DeArment Ice Arena.
“I think we can be better,” said Bulldogs head coach Jamie Plunkett. “There were a couple nice goals. Obviously, Josh Orr’s shot was a great shot. But it was kind of an ugly win.”
It’s not that the Bulldogs (8-6 overall, 2-0 Lakeshore) played badly. In fact they kind of dominated the matchup. They spent most of the time in LeBoeuf’s zone, setting up the pieces to score. But for a variety of reasons, many of those opportunities didn’t end in goals.
“We missed the net lots of times,” said Plunkett. “And I thought there were several opportunities when we had guys in position to shoot and some guys made bad decisions with the puck.”
The ’Dogs scored enough to win, just not enough to be 100 percent satisfied.
“There was a lot of traffic in front of the net, couldn’t get a lot of shots on net, got bad bounces,” said Meadville junior John Gizzie. “But we still got the win. That’s all that matters.”
Gizzie found a way to get the first two goals in the net for Meadville, though.
A little more than a minute into the first period, Trevor Johnson got a turnover at LeBoeuf’s blue line. He put it on net but Bison’s goalie Julia Fair got the stop. Chase Vickers then took a whack at the rebound, and Fair got the stop. Then Gizzie was the third guy in, the puck was still loose, and he buried it.
Two minutes later, Fort LeBoeuf’s Nathan Smith tied it up. Meadville tried to clear the puck from behind its own net, but Smith got a hold of it and buried it in the corner of the goal.
Yet, Gizzie gave the lead back to Meadville with about six minutes to go in the first. With the ’Dogs on a power play, he once again he found himself in position to capitalize on a rebound, finishing off an opportunity that began with a shot by Owen Miller.
Meadville wouldn’t trail again.
“When you’re not playing 100 percent, you’ve got to do a lot of the little things, like get in front of the net,” said Meadville senior Cade Nickerson. “Like John, he was just in front of the net for his two goals. And that’s what we need more of.
“He’s just a little guy but he still gets in there. That’s what I like about him.”
Steven Shafer then made it a 3-1 game with just 37 seconds gone in the second period. His goal was also on a rebound. Mike Bogardus got the assist.
Neither team would score over the next nine minutes. Although it was not for lack of trying.
“They just didn’t go,” said Nickerson. “It’s frustrating. But that happens sometimes. It’s hockey.”
With 5:11 to play in the second, Smith broke through again for LeBoeuf, cutting Meadville’s lead to 3-2 by beating Bulldogs’ keeper Austin Guanzon one-on-one.
It was a close game. But it was also around this time when things started getting a little testy between the two teams. The Bison were delivering some late shots most of the night. But late in the second, LeBoeuf’s Sean Sculley laid Bogardus out with a cheap shot from behind well after the whistle was blown.
After a 10 minute game misconduct, Sculley got back in the game in the third period and lasted a matter of seconds before he again clocked somebody in the back of the head after play had stopped. He was finally tossed.
The rest of the third period included some pushing and shoving between the two sides.
“We’ve been playing those same kids for a lot of years, probably since JV or 7th or 8th grade,” said Nickerson. “Just coming up through, you play the same kids every year, so we have a little rivalry with them.”
But Meadville had the final say on the scoreboard. Bryan Ray notched goal No. 4 for the Bulldogs, scoring off a rebound a mere 12 seconds into the third period.
And with 2:06 remaining, with Meadville a man down, Orr scored his aforementioned beauty with a laser-like slap shot from just inside the blue line.
Meadville will see LeBoeuf again on Sunday at noon in Erie. The LeBoeuf games bookend a week in which Meadville will play four contests against Lakeshore opponents. Today, the ’Dogs travel to Jamestown, N.Y., to take on Southwest/Maplegrove. Then on Thursday they return to Jamestown to play Jamestown.