MORGANTOWN, W. Va.–The Morgantown MoHawks high school hockey team came up short Thursday in a 7-6 shootout against Carrick (Pa.), at the Morgantown Municipal Ice Arena.
The MoHawks had a chance to pull closer to the Cougars, as the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Hockey League (PIHL) regular season winds down, but despite battling back from behind three times, Morgantown couldn’t pull out the win.
It looked great for Morgantown (6-8-0-2) early, as their captain and leading scorer Quintin Smith scored a pair of pretty goals early in the first period.
Smith took a pass from Jay Anderson, skated laterally into the right circle and, using the defenseman as a screen, snapped a wrist shot over goalie Sean Dugan’s left shoulder for a 1-0 lead. Just 39 seconds later, Smith forechecked a puck loose at the blue line, skated in alone, and tucked a pretty backhand past Dugan to double the advantage.
But, as has been their Achilles’ heel all season, the MoHawks got sloppy and undisciplined late in the period, and Carrick (9-5-0-1) made them pay. A pair of penalties put Morgantown down two men for 12 seconds, and Cougars’ center Gavin McKain scored on both the 5-3 and 5-4 power plays to tie it up at 2-2. To make matter worse just 3 minutes later, the MoHawks gave up a shorthanded breakaway to Tyson Feldman, who beat Morgantown goalie Sydney Smith top shelf on the forehand to give Carrick a 3-2 lead.
That’s the definition of a special teams disaster, and it can be very difficult to fight through that kind of adversity, but the MoHawks’ second period was steady and strong, as they tilted the ice with steady puck pressure and generated solid scoring chances throughout. Smith finally tied the game at three apiece with a sweet toe-drag hat trick goal at 6:56, then Brayden Wilson buried a half slapshot from between the circles two minutes later to regain the lead, 4-3. However, Carrick caught the MoHawks on an extended shift late in the period, and Nick Cindrich pounded in a rebound with just 12 second left in the period to knot it at 4-4.
Cindrich slid a rebound off the back boards past Smith four minutes into the third period to retake the lead, but the MoHawks again responded midway through the final period with an opportunistic goal from Wilson, who gathered a loose puck to the left of the cage and roofed a teriffic backhand over Dugan to make it 5-5.
Less than a minute later, Morgantown went back on the power play with a chance to take the lead late, but both the first and second unit couldn’t sustain pressure (they finished 0-5 on the man advantage for the game).
Carrick got a puck-luck bounce off a defenseman in front to take a 6-5 lead with less than five minutes remaining, but Smith potted his fourth goal of the game 23 seconds later, converting a cross-ice pass from Marshall Wimmer and burying the feed to tie it at 6-6.
Despite several great chances for both teams down the stretch and throughout the exciting three minute, 3-on-3 overtime session, neither team could beat Smith or Dugan. In the shootout, Carrick scored twice, while Dugan stopped both his shots for the win.
“Brayden and I scored some nice goals high, because he was going down pretty early,” said Smith after the game, “but we all should’ve had more. We missed a bunch of chances, and we need to crash the net more, shoot low and hard, get some greasy rebound goals. This was a game we could’ve won.”
MoHawks coach Rob Rockis agreed with his captain.
“I thought we took advantage of opportunities pretty well tonight, and I especially like the way we didn’t give up,” he said. “We could’ve folded after the way the first period ended, and after the late goals in the second and the third periods, but we kept battling, kept our heads up, and competed every minute.
“Now, if we could just get some more shots on goal on the power play,” he concluded wistfully, “and stay out of the box…”
He didn’t finish the sentence, nor did he need to.
The MoHawks travel to Southpoint in Pittsburgh next Tuesday to face Trinity before returning home on Thursday against first-place Burrell.