vs. Williston Northampton
|Date:||December 2, 2017|
Salisbury Fills Net Early, Then Holds On
Williston Northampton rolled into the Flood Center on Saturday afternoon, riding high after a 3-2 win over Avon Old Farms on Wednesday and looking to keep their mo-flow against Salisbury. At least they carried that attitude onto the ice and through the first half of period one, during which the Wildcats arguably had the better scoring chances. A three-goal Salisbury flurry in a span of 1:22 midway through the period, however, changed all that and set in motion a 4-2 win for the Knights.
It was not always pretty. Not when a goalie is pulled ten minutes into a game after allowing goals on three consecutive shots. Not when a coach jumps onto the ice, refuses to return to the bench, and gets tossed by the officials. Not when a player incurs a 5-minute major penalty with his team clinging to the lead in the final minutes of the game.
This one could have turned out differently if Salisbury goalie Jared Levine had not flashed – and on multiple occasions – one of the fastest glove-hands since gun-slinger Alan Ladd out-drew villainous Jack Palance in their epic showdown at the climax of “Shane.” Levine finished with 20 saves, several of which could qualify him for armed robbery.
After withstanding the Wildcats’ initial surge, the Knights began to have the better of play around the mid-point of the period. With 8:03 transpired, Nick Capone jammed home a deflection to Williston goalie Greg Iverson’s left to put Salisbury up, 1-0, and send the sea of black in the stands into a frenzy with the first home-ice goal of the new season. Collecting assists on the play were Peter Diliberatore and Matt Holmes. Just 28 seconds later, the Knights put together a terrific passing sequence under heavy pressure from Williston’s defenders along the left boards, culminating in a Holmes shot out of Iverson’s reach into the lower right corner of the net. Brett Willits and Capone earned assists.
When Iverson allowed a Jacques Bouquot wrister to dribble past him less than a minute later, with assists from Ilya Usau and Kevin Wall, Salisbury had scored on three consecutive shots and raced out to a 3-0 lead. At this point, the Wildcat coach had seen enough, turning to reliever Xander Rogers to take over in the crease. Although Rogers would surrender a power-play goal to Chris Brown with 3:08 left in the first frame, set up by Bouquot and Alex DiPaolo, he otherwise stood tall in the net for Williston, shutting down the Knight attack for the remainder of the game. Rogers stopped 27 shots in all, many of which qualified for the highlight reel, and, more importantly, allowed his team to climb back into the game.
Which Williston did, starting with a Logan Geisness goal in the final minute of play in the period, to give the Wildcats a boost heading into the first intermission. That boost carried over to period two, as Williston’s Tim Rego needed only two minutes to beat Levine and narrow the score to 4-2. Both teams would develop solid scoring chances as play continued through the period, but now the game turned into a duel between Rogers and Levine. Salisbury showed especially good movement on its power-play opportunities, but Rogers’ acrobatic footwork enabled him to keep pace with the Knights’ sharp puck movement and to be in place when a shot came his way. It would take a Verne Lundquist to do full justice to the figures Rogers cut in defense of the Wildcat goal-line.
Salisbury retook the ice at the start of the third period with a renewed sense of purpose, storming the Williston net and testing Rogers every which way. During the opening three minutes, Rogers made some of his most eye-popping saves. The Knights had a scare 3:27 into the period when a Wildcat forward found an opening on the left side and came in alone on Levine. His shot clanged off the bottom of the far post, however, and out of harm’s way. As play became increasingly aggressive, both teams had man-advantage situations, several times negated by subsequent penalties during a power play. Levine’s biggest moment came with just under five minutes left in the game after a Williston attacker stripped the puck from a Knight defender at the Salisbury blue line and raced in alone on the net. Out flashed Levine’s glove hand, snagging the puck as it rocketed toward the upper left corner. Two minutes later, Levine did it again on another blast targeted for the top left.
As previously noted, action on-ice became wild and wooly in the final minutes, with Williston losing its coach but gaining an extended power play on Salisbury’s major penalty. The Wildcats would parlay that into a two-man advantage when Rogers left the ice for an extra skater, but the harried Knights ran out the clock to secure the victory.
Monday brings another game as Salisbury (2-0) travels to Millbrook. The charging Mustangs stampeded Lawrenceville on Saturday, 8-0, to recover from an opening 4-2 loss to Canterbury and even their season slate at 1-1.