The evening began with a somber tone and ended with one of frustration as the Meadville Bulldog hockey team skated to a lackluster 6-3 win over Canon-McMillan on Monday.

Prior to the game, there was a moment of silence in honor of the memory of former Bulldog Jason Bossard — the son of Meadville assistant Dick Holabaugh — who died tragically late last week and was laid to rest earlier yesterday.

Yet, coach Holabaugh was back at his rink-side post for last night’s game. And Bulldogs head coach Jamie Plunkett was hoping that would spur his players into playing with a little fire.

Instead, he got a lukewarm performance that netted the ’Dogs two points in the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Hockey League standings, yet did nothing for Plunkett’s confidence as his team hits the home stretch of the 2007-08 season.

“Dick buries his son today, and if it was me, I would have stayed away from here,” said Plunkett. “But he came and that just shows how much this team means to him. And with him being here, I didn’t think I had to say much (to the team).

“That, and we got Billy Espy back for the first time in two months. So, we got Billy back, and you’d think they would play hard for Dick, play with a little energy. But it just wasn’t there.”

Following the game, Plunkett and his team adjourned to the locker room just long enough for the squad to change into practice jerseys. And then it was back out onto the ice for an intense round of post-game skating drills.

“I’m really disappointed,” said Plunkett. “It’s getting to that time of the year where we’ve got to start playing more desperate. And I don’t know if we looked at Canon-Mcmillan’s record and just decided to take it easy or what.

“We just played soft. Something is missing. I’m not sure what it is, but there is something missing.”

There were exceptions, however. Goaltender Taylor Nickerson, for example, played an outstanding game, making 24 saves for his fifth win of the season.

“Taylor played very well,” said Plunkett. “The last league game we had, he struggled a little bit and I had to pull him. But this was really one of the best efforts I’ve seen out of him.”

’Dogs forward Nick Fedorka also played a strong game, netting a goal and a pair of assists.

“Nick works hard every shift,” said Plunkett. “He never takes a shift off. He played a good, physical game.”

Fedorka’s two assists were both in the first period. And both helped out Drew Finton who scored both goals as the Bulldogs took a 2-0 lead.

This was also Nickerson’s best period. He deflected nine shots and denied C-M a number of prime scoring chances.

“If it wasn’t for Taylor Nickerson in that first period, we may have been down by a goal or two,” said Plunkett.

The Bulldogs’ lead stretched to 3-0 after Fedorka struck with an unassisted goal in the second period.

He intercepted the puck just inside the ’Dogs zone, snaked around pair of defenders, and chipped the puck past Highlanders’ goalie Steven Veydt.

Matt Rivetti struck for Canon-McMillan a minute after Fedorka’s goal, and that’s the way the second period would end; with Meadville up 3-1.

The third period was rather messy as the two sides were hit up for 12 2-minute penalties, one 5-minute penalty, and one 10-minute game misconduct.

And even between all that there was time for an even-strength goal as Kevin Learn zipped right past a defender along the boards, turned in front of the Canon-McMillan’s net and beat Veydt to the five-hole, putting the ’Dogs ahead 4-1.

Later, C-M had a two-man advantage when Ian Lewis ricocheted a slap shot off the post and into the net behind Nickerson, making it 4-2.

Then Meadville had back-to-back power-play goals from Morgan Nickerson and Kyle Learn.

The Highlanders made it 6-3 with a short-handed goal from Alex Pihakis with 59 seconds remaining.

The Bulldogs (18-14-3, 8-4-2 PIHL) will be back in action on Friday during opening-day action at the weekend-long Mt. Lebanon Tournament. They’ll be back at home on Feb. 4, hosting PIHL for Seneca Valley.

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