CASTLE SHANNON, Pa. — Nick Stock scored his third goal of the game, an overtime winner just 20 seconds in, to give the No. 1 Thomas Jefferson Jaguars a 7-6 win over the No. 8 Hempfield Spartans Monday night at Ice Castle Arena.
Despite never holding a lead, the Jaguars never quit fighting. It would have been easy to throw in the towel. Every time Thomas Jefferson trimmed the Hempfield lead, the Spartans responded and kept their foot on the gas. Hempfield was practically spotted a 3-0 lead to begin the game. Three goals in the first 5:45, including the opener by Logan Eisaman 10 seconds in, made it tough sledding for Thomas Jefferson.
Jaguars defenseman Brett Smith finally got his club on the board just over 10 minutes into the game. Smith sniped a puck past Hempfield netminder Zack Francisco, who was solid through most of the first two periods. But just a few minutes into the second period, Tyler Planey gave the Spartans a three-goal lead once more, 4-1.
A power play goal by Andrew Oliver brought Thomas Jefferson within two again, and Stock’s first goal of the game cut the deficit to one less than a minute and a half later. But 33 seconds later, Zachary Ridilla made it 5-3 Hempfield.
“I always tell the guys there’s no panic on this bench,” said head coach John Zeiler after the game. “When they see panic in the coaches, then they’ll be worried.”
That cool under pressure attitude started paying off. Stock notched his second goal of the game with less than three minutes left in the second period to cut the Hempfield lead to a single goal once more. The Jaguars thought they had the tying goal with a minute left, but it was waived off.
Despite starting the third period with a 5-on-3 power play, Francisco stayed strong for Hempfield in net. Damion Busch added one for the Spartans to once more push the lead to two. But the Jaguars still had some bite left.
With just under 10 minutes to play, the other Stock brother, Jake, scored to make it 6-5. Less than two minutes later, captain Colby Bilski tied the game for the first time since the 10-second mark of the first period to force overtime.
It was exactly what Thomas Jefferson needed, and exactly what Hempfield did not want. Thomas Jefferson took all the momentum into the extra frame and Stock buried his third goal of the game for the hat trick and overtime winner.
“If we play our game, we’re just as good if not better than any other team in this league,” said Stock after the game. “We bounced back well. Kept at it and just played our game.”
The Jaguars will face the winner of No. 4 Penn-Trafford and No. 5 Meadville at the RMU Island Sports Center on Tuesday. Mar. 15, 2022 at 7 p.m.
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