The Meadville hockey team had something to prove to itself after back-to-back lackluster games.
The first was a 3-3 tie to Harborcreek a week-and-a-half ago in the final preseason contest. The second came by way of a 4-1 loss to Quaker Valley on Monday.
So how did the Bulldogs respond on Wednesday? Very well.
Looking for redemption for the last two outings, the Meadville hockey team came out, energy high, and rolled to a 7-1 win over Harborcreek during non-league action at the Meadville Area Recreation Complex.
“I said before the game, unless we start playing faster and moving our feet, we are not going to be successful,” said Meadville head coach Jamie Plunkett. “I thought we did a good job of moving our feet. I thought we pressured their defensemen. I thought we pressured the puck a lot better. I just think that is something that is going to have to be a part of our DNA. Pressure creates turnovers, takes away time and space of the opponent, and we capitalized on some of those mistakes (Wednesday) night.”
There was certainly a lot to be happy about.
Scoring came from several sources, something Plunkett wasn’t sure he’d have this season. Yes, there were the usual suspects. Cohl Weber, the team’s leading returning scorer, got things started with an even strength goal just 3:44 into the first period. Also scored a short-handed goal with 1:16 left to play in the second period and had an assist on the opening goal of the second.
Scoring that goal was Ryan Scheppelman, who beat Harborcreek goalie Ben Sower
just 45 seconds into the second period while his team had a man advantage. Scheppelman also had a short-handed goal a mere 3:11 into the third.
“We knew what we needed to do,” said Weber. “We just had to do it and play as a team. We have a good freshman class coming in. Ryan was a sophomore last year and he has been picking it up. We all just need to find our game, take it out on the ice and the goals will come.”
Some other youngsters showed up as well.
Michael Mahoney scored an unassisted even-strength goal with 7:22 to play in the second, Then freshman Trevor Kessler gave the Bulldogs a 6-0 lead when he scored a short-handed goal with 11:39 left to play in the third. Another freshman, Jonathan English, gave his team a fourth short-handed goal with 11:19 to play.
If you are doing the math, that is a power play goal and four short-handers for the special teams, and they also kept Harborcreek 0-for-8 on the power play.
“We moved the puck around better (on special teams),” said Plunkett. “A couple times we entered the zone, made one play and then (Harborcreek) iced it. You hate to see that because it takes time off the clock. But I was pleased with the effort there.”
Other things to be happy about was the defense.
Anchored by Jordan McCurdy in goal, the Bulldogs made Harborcreek work for every opportunity. And those opportunities were not coming readily. In fact, the Huskies managed just 20 shots on goal as Meadville hounded the puck handler with every chance it got. That let McCurdy do his thing. And if not for a perfect front-door shot, the junior may have notched the shutout.
“This was a big jump for us,” said McCurdy. “I think we realized we shouldn’t be tying a team like (Harborcreek). I think the team was more focused this time. The younger kids are surprising us. They are stepping up. And it helps my confidence knowing (my defense) is in front of me.”
Even little things no one notices, the Bulldogs did them well.
A prime example was a pair of plays by defenseman Alex Ott. With the Bulldogs short-handed in the second period, Ott chased down the puck behind the Harborcreek goalie. But instead of playing it back and hoping a teammate could get to it, Ott just put himself between the puck and the Huskies defenseman. Once the defenseman engaged, Ott pinned the puck to the boards and made him work to get it free. The Huskies finally did, but a good 22 second later, which helped kill that penalty.
Ott did almost an identical play behind his own net during short-handed action in the third period. It took Harbor Creek a little less time to get the puck free, but it allowed his teammates to finish a shift change and get set on defense. Seems minor, but when the puck was played back out front, Meadville intercepted the pass and it led directly to one of the Bulldogs’ four short-handed goals.
“It was a heads up play,” said Plunkett. “It takes time away from their power play. It frustrates the other team and gives your team some energy. Yeah, he was strong on his skates, protected the puck and it was a great play.”
The Bulldogs will have a few days off to get ready for their next contest. That game will be at PIHL opponent Moon on Oct. 14 at 7 p.m.