ASTON >> Ridley first-line winger Michael Desio assessed his and his team’s night against Strath Haven succinctly.
“We played good,” he said. “But we just have to stay out of the box. I was a big part of that. I’ll learn from it. It should’ve been our game.”
Instead it was a 5-5 tie, one that keeps the rivals neck-and-neck in the Central League South Division. The Green Raiders (8-4-2-2, 7-2-2-2 Central) hold a two-point lead over the Panthers (9-4-1-1, 7-2-1-1) for second place, but Haven has two games in hand. The tie Monday stings particularly for Ridley, which led 5-3 with 5:10 to play.
“We should’ve won the game,” said Raiders coach Stephane Charbonneau. “We have to learn to keep our composure. But this is high school. Anyone can score at anytime.”
Desio saw that first hand. His hat trick goal spotted Ridley that 5-3 lead 1:27 into the third period. He also took three penalties. A tripping infraction with 2:31 to play led to Blayden Reid’s equalizer for Haven. Desio went to the box again in overtime and breathed a sigh of relief when he stepped back on the ice.
The sequence of events — scoring goals and taking penalties — speaks to the Raiders’ plight this season. They score a ton of goals, but they often press, making mistakes in the process. Composure, as Charbonneau said, would do them well.
The same could be said of the Panthers. The visitors struck first and led 2-1 after the opening 16 minutes. Ryan Spanier bagged his 18th and 19th goals of the campaign to offset Brett Dunning’s marker. Haven then proceeded to get outshot 18-9 in the second period. Desio scored twice — picking an opponent’s pocket and going high blocker on one, lifting a shot from an acute angle on the other — and Dunning added his second, jamming in a rebound off a Michael Giampapa feed.
If not for Lukas Bernaus, Ridley might have run away with it.
“Our biggest thing is our defensive zone coverage is not great,” said Strath Haven coach Matt Chandik. “It’s a difficult thing to dedicate time to. I feel bad for Lukas, because his stats don’t look as pretty as they should. I think he’s one of the best goalies in the league.”
Bernaus was left helpless on Desio’s third goal. Desio finished a two-on-one off a slick pass from Eric Miller. Down 5-3, the Panthers’ push came late.
“We went after their defensemen,” said Spanier. “We pressured their defense and created turnovers. Good things happen.”
Mike Irey, who scored Haven’s third goal on a coast-to-coast rush, tipped in a sharp point shot from Luke O’Connor to pull within one. Reid evened things when defensive defenseman Trevor Lowe, who plays in front of the net on the power play, made a cross-crease, no-look backhand pass to him at the doorstep. 5-5.
That’s how things ended, although not without drama. The Panthers had that overtime power play. They also got a few more good stops from Bernaus, including one on Giampapa with 1.2 seconds on the clock.
Both teams took a glass half full approach. It’s that time of year after all. The playoffs are right around the corner, and emphasizing the positives can make a difference.
“I think we’re building chemistry,” said Desio. “We’re getting better every game.”
“We showed resilience,” said Spanier. “We didn’t give up. We just couldn’t get the last one.”
In the Catholic League:
Cardinal O’Hara 11, Archbishop Wood 1 >> Liam McCanney scored twice in a five-goal first period and twice in the third on a six-point night. John Paul Ahearn added three goals and four assists, and Matt Beck paired a goal with two helpers for the Lions.
In crossover action:
W.C. East 7, Penncrest 0 >> Gannon Walker made 30 saves in goal, but Joey Vagnoni bested him for a hat trick as the Vikings rolled.
Marjorie Keeley scored twice, but Lower Merion’s Rory Essick completed her hat trick with two goals in the final five minutes of the game to earn the Aces a 4-4 tie with Penncrest/Strath Haven.
Sarah Peichel and Maeve Hiehle also scored for Penncrest/Haven.
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