ADRIAN, Mich. — A go-ahead goal late just over halfway through the third period helped the No. 4 Adrian Bulldogs pull out a 4-3 victory over conference foe Concordia (Wis.) in a hard fought, penalty-filled MCHA conference battle Saturday.
One night after dropping an emotional 5-2 game to the Bulldogs, Concordia was looking to show that they are going to be contenders in the MCHA and that they did.
“Concordia is going to be a team to be reckoned with immediately,” said Adrian coach Ron Fogarty after the game. “They are a young, hard-working team and they are already playing good, fast-paced hockey.”
Josh Ranalli played the role of the hero, getting what proved to be the game-winning goal with just over 7:30 remaining in the third period. Ranalli took a pass from Shaquille Merasty before scoring a highlight-reel goal to give Adrian a 4-3 lead.
Ranalli picked up the pass from Merasty and cut towards the center of the ice trying to get a shot off. As he tried to make his way towards the net, Ranalli was tripped up, but that did not stop the Adrian forward from getting a shot off. Falling to the ice, Ranalli fired a shot into the top corner, beating Concordia goalie Jake Hebda.
“Shaq made a nice little chip pass and I picked it up and just took my shot as I was falling,” explained Ranalli. “I got a lucky shot off and it went in. It was a lucky shot, but it counts.”
As the puck dropped on the afternoon contest, the Falcons hoped that they could carry some momentum gained late Friday night despite losing 5-2. The Bulldogs wanted to quickly crush any thoughts of victory and any piece of momentum that the Falcons were holding on to.
Despite netting pair of first-period goals, the Bulldogs were unable to establish a strong offensive presence during the first period.
The Bulldogs’ grind line got the scoring started in the first period for the second consecutive night when Zach Wilson picked up a loose puck after Kyle Gallinger’s shot from the point went wide. Wilson made no mistake beating Hebda, giving Adrian the lead at 1-0.
Duston Hebebrand extended the Adrian lead just over two minutes later when Justin Basso found Hebebrand all alone in the slot, where he quickly tapped the puck right through the legs of Hebda.
With a man in front of Adrian goalie James Hamby, Concordia’s Ben Jaremko put a low hard shot on net that was tipped in front by Connor Pennell before trickling past Hamby. The Falcons grabbed momentum from their first goal of the game, but were unable to beat Hamby again in the first period.
In the second period, neither team seemed to be able to stay out of the penalty box, resulting in a combined three power-play goals from the two teams and several more opportunities.
“I think we played about five minutes of five-on-five hockey in the second,” said Fogarty.
Adrian was the first to take advantage of the power play as an early-period penalty to the Falcons gave the Bulldogs’ power play a chance to shine.
Zach Graham made sure the Falcons paid when he extended the Bulldogs’ lead to 3-1 at 1:41 of the period. Graham netted his seventh goal of the season when he walked off the half wall before beating Hebda high to the glove side.
Once again, though, the Falcons answered back when just under three minutes later Dan Szerlip tipped the puck past Hamby to cut the Bulldog lead to 3-2.
The Falcons would get the next goal as well to tie the game at 3-3. The Concordia power play made the Bulldogs pay for costly penalties when Franco Loparco scored during a four-on-there power play.
“We went back last night watched film and broke down their power play,” said Concordia coach Jasen Wise. “We had a little film session this morning and broke down with our guys some things to do on the power play.”
For the rest of the period, both teams struggled to keep five players on the ice as well as maintain an offensive presence. With two periods in the books, the game was back to where it started with both teams all knotted up.
The third period featured an exciting back and forth battle but both teams were solid defensively with only one goal being scored all period.
The Bulldogs were able to stay out of the box and keep the Falcons off the board for the rest of the period walking away with a 4-3 victory, running their overall record to 9-0, second best in the program’s history.
“When we play five-on-five, we are a very good team,” Fogarty said. “We played mostly five-on-five in the third and we were able to get the win.”
Hamby continued his stellar play, making 34 saves on 37 shots and has a perfect 5-0 record for Adrian this season.
“Jimmy has been great so far this year,” said Fogarty. “He’s been reliable for us and played very well back there for us.”
Hebda made 42 saves on 46 shots, coming up huge at times keeping the game close.