The last time out, the Meadville hockey team was impressive during a 5-1 win over Pennsylvania Interscholastic Hockey League foe Quaker Valley. A week later, those same young Bulldog skaters got a wakeup call.
Hosting West Allegheny at the DeArment Ice Arena, Meadville found out there was a long way to go if they wanted to vie for a title. In the end, the bigger, quicker and more experienced Indians rolled to a 9-1 win. And it was no fluke, the better team won.
“Ho, yeah,” said Plunkett, “They have some very talented kids. And they came out, ready to go. And we weren’t ready to go.”
It showed in the first few minutes of the game.
West Allegheny put the pressure on from the first drop of the puck. Meadville did its best to keep the Indians off balance, but it was only a matter of time before the visiting squad found its groove. And a beautiful pass started that engine running.
West Allegheny’s Shane Nolan got the puck behind Meadville’s net. He faked right, went left and snapped off a perfect no look pass to the stick of Jake Gyergyo in the center of the ice. The puck was in the net before Meadville goalie Jordan McCurdy could even move, and just like that the Indians led one-minute and 53 seconds into the contest.
That was just the start of the bleeding.
WA would set the tone with two more goals in the next four and a half minutes. The first came 28 seconds after the first. This time Tyler Howcroft took a pass from T.J. Boykin and stuck it past McCurdy. Then, 3:07 later, Jake Scholz scored with assists going to Clay Bovalina and Gyergyo.
Plunkett went to his bench and brought in freshman goalie Sam Coppola. And it appeared to give the team a bit of a spark. In fact, 14 seconds later the Bulldogs got on the board as Michael Mahoney scored past WA goalie Josh Ferry. Cohl Weber and Kyle Hanaway picked up assist on the tally.
“That fast start ...,” said Plunkett. “They go up 3-0, we make a goaltending change, we get one back. Maybe if we get another there, who knows.”
Ferry would have none of it.
The goalie, who is as big as he is athletic, left Meadville no room to get back in the game. He would go on to stop the next 33 Bulldogs shots, including the the final 10 of the first period. It was deja vu for Plunkett.
“We struggled with him last year,” said Plunkett. “(West Allegheny) beat us twice last year and I think they are going to be one of the teams to beat this year in double A. They do a lot of nice things.”
After the first intermission, West Allegheny went back to work.
The team scored three quick goals again, this time in the first 7:32 of the second period. Nolan scored the first two at the 15:34 and 11:24 mark. Scholz assisted on both, and Gyergyo added an assist as well. Then Gabe Lauff made it 6-1 with 10:38 left in the period. Sholz got an assist. And the team’s leading scorer, Nick Bandi, finally picked up a point. Then Bandi scored an unassisted power-play goal with 5:25 left in the period forcing Plunkett to go back to McCurdy in net.
“He is a defenseman,” said Plunkett. “But they have good depth, they roll three lines ... There were a few times we were able to get a little pressure. But not enough to make something happen.”
Bovalina scored just 14 seconds into the final stanza. And Nolan scored his hat trick goal with 2:51 left to account for the final score. Bandi assisted on both goals. Kellen Rupnik and Gyergyo also had assists in the period.
And if playing a better team wasn’t enough, mental mistakes didn’t help.
“We have a lot of young kids playing,” said Plunkett. “So this is kind of baptism by fire. We are going to have some of those nights this year. I think it is going to be a few months before we can really eliminate some of the mistakes that are hurting us. Like too many men on the ice ... that should never happen.
“Those are the little things we harp on all the time. Another, we had the puck on our side. We need to just move three feet and send it ahead. Instead, we send it down and get called for icing. Against some teams, you might be able to get away with it. But against a good team like West Allegheny, they are going to make you pay for every mistake.”
Scholz was named player of the game for his one-goal, three-assist effort. Nolan tallied three goals and an assist, while Gyergyo scored a goal and had three helpers.
Meadville is off until Nov. 4 when it hosts non-PIHL rival Jamestown (N.Y.) at 7:30 p.m.