WEST POINT, N.Y. – Sacred Heart completed a thrilling comeback victory, beating Army 6-5. The main story of this score-fest was the Pioneers’ ability to overcome three-goal and two-goal deficits.
“Coming back from two goals down [in the third period], we just clawed all the way back and kept at it,” said Sacred Heart coach C.J. Marottolo. “We kept making plays and getting shots on net.”
The opening frame belonged to Army, however, as the Black Knights struck 8:45 into the period on a fluky goal by Zak Zaremba. Following a shot fired by Brian Shultz, the puck bounced in off of Zaremba’s upper body.
Following a boarding penalty taken by Pioneer Ben Lake, Army extended its lead on the power play. Willie Faust blasted a shot that was saved by Pioneers goaltender Alex Vazzano’s left pad, but Joe Kozlak was there to snap it home at 9:27 of the first period.
Just 47 seconds later, Josh Richards recorded his first goal of the year when he sniped a wrist shot from the top of the circle off of a two-on-one rush to give Army a three-goal lead.
“It was a great play from my linemates; we were able to get a two-on-one and I was able to put it in,” Richards said.
To calm his team down, Marottolo decided to make a goalie change and replaced Vazzano with Andrew Bodnarchuk.
This tactic seemed to work when, despite being a man down, Sacred Heart’s Ben Lake scored on a smooth deke at 17:27, cutting Army’s lead to two before the break.
In the second period, Sacred Heart picked up where it left off. Taking advantage of Army’s lax defending in front of the net, Daniel Lisi rebounded it in off of Justin Danforth’s blast from the point just 41 seconds into the second.
Sacred Heart kept the pressure on Army’s defense through the first half of the period and tied the score at 8:53 when Jake Lynes received a pass from Erlich Doerksen and snapped one in.
Having blown their three-goal lead, the Black Knights came out in the second half of the period determined to change the momentum. Their efforts were rewarded with two goals in a 10-second span.
Josh Richards continued to demonstrate his scoring prowess, taking a blistering slap shot past Bodnarchuck 15:20 into the second. Ten seconds later, Army’s Mac Lalor fired a shot from the blue line that snuck past a screened Bodnarchuk. The period concluded with what felt like a rare five-minute stint without a goal, leaving the score 5-3 Army going into the third frame.
At 8:51 into the third, Mitch Nylen out-muscled Army defenders for position in the slot and was rewarded with a juicy rebound from a Lisi shot that he struck home to trim the Black Knight’s lead to one.
Less than three minutes later, with Army’s C.J. Reuschlein in the box for roughing, Pioneer Will Rayner slapped a shot in from the blue line at 11:46 to tie the game up at five.
Army continued to play with abandon, resulting in a costly two-minute tripping penalty on Marc Lalor 16:14 into the third period.
The Pioneers moved the puck expertly on their power play and after some quick passing, Drew George tapped it into an open net for the game-winner with 2:12 left.
“It was an up-and-down game and lots of highs and lows,” George said. “We were clicking well on the power play before, and I was able to get a wide open net and luckily I didn’t miss it.”
These teams face off again tomorrow night in Danbury, Conn.