ASTON >> Springfield doesn’t practice three-on-three overtime.
“Not at all, man,” said Cougars defenseman Thomas Yocum.
Maybe they should, at least to prepare for Ridley. These two teams have played extra sessions in the last three Central League playoffs. They got a taste for regular season overtime, and the new three-on-three format, in the latest clash Friday night.
Yocum scored the winner in a 6-5 Springfield comeback victory.
The overtime played out like so many before. The Green Raiders, with Michael Giampapa leading the way, controlled the puck in the offensive zone. Michael Desio just missed deflecting in a pass at the side of the net. And then, a break the other way. Steven Griffin picked up a loose puck and found himself with one Ridley defender and acres of open ice.
“(I) was just looking for the 2-on-1,” explained Griffin, “and getting a one-timer.”
Yocum recognized the opportunity and joined Griffin.
“When I saw him pick up the puck in our zone and saw that they only had one guy back, I knew I needed to be in this rush,” Yocum said. “When I saw it leave his stick I thought I had to put my all into it.”
Yocum didn’t waste time. He collected a chipped pass and fired a shot five-hole to beat Raiders’ goaltender Jason Simms. Yocum jumped into the glass and was soon chased down by his teammates.
It was an exultant group and a relieved group. The Cougars (12-0-0-0 overall, 11-0-0-0 Central League) remained undefeated on the season thanks to a furious comeback.
Dan Barrett gave Springfield a 1-0 lead in the first period, but the Cougars wouldn’t lead again until Yocum’s clincher. Ridley dominated, out-shooting the visitors 12-3 in the opening frame.
The Green Raiders found the back of the net four times in the second period, with the top line of Desio-Giampapa-Brett Dunning doing the damage. Dunning scored twice, Desio once. Giampapa had a goal and three assists. The last marker, a Dunning rebound from Giampapa, came with 14 seconds left in the period.
And yet they couldn’t pull away. The Green Raiders never led by more than two and with Sam Simms’ goal, Springfield stayed within striking distance. The Cougars looked rusty and a bit out of sync — an understandable consequence of playing just once in 2018 prior to Friday night. Yet they had just enough time.
Andrew Giangiordano made it 4-3 midway through the third. And when Giampapa beat three Springfield defenders on his way to a spectacular second goal, the Cougars answered again. Aidan Smith scored with just under six minutes to play. Griffin then knotted things, with 1.8 seconds remaining, on the power play with the goalie pulled.
“It just kind of popped out,” Griffin said. “I saw the screen and took the shot.”
Ridley nearly jump-started the second half of its campaign in stunning fashion. The Raiders will instead settle for an overtime point and minor victories. Jason Simms was particularly solid in goal, fighting through illness to make 19 saves.
“(It’s) definitely not the outcome we wanted, but we played really good as a team,” Dunning said. “We just have to keep getting better and learn from this.”
Yocum, on the other hand, reflected on the victory and yet another chapter in a terrific rivalry.
“There’s nothing like it,” he said. “We’re always competitive. It’s always good to come out with a win over Ridley.”
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