MANCHESTER - When it comes to shots on net, it's all about quality, not quantity, for the St. Thomas Aquinas High School of Dover hockey team.
The Saints scored on four of their 15 shots, including one with 4:41 left in overtime, to rally for a 4-3 win over top-ranked Manchester Memorial in Division I action at JFK Coliseum on Wednesday night.
St. Thomas tied the game 3-3 with 42 seconds left in regulation on a goal by T.J. Boulanger, then survived a flurry of offense from the Crusaders over the first minute of overtime before Dakota Pidgeon finally scored the winner.
"The kids hung in there," St. Thomas coach Andrew Leach said. "If you watch the game you'd think the ice was tilted down at our end, but we got good goaltending and our kids stayed at it, stayed patient and took advantage of their few shots."
Memorial outshot the Saints 44-15 and dominated play for most of the game. Had it not been for St. Thomas goalie Zane Angelopoulos, the game would have been won by Memorial in regulation, but the sophomore goaltender was outstanding and finished with 41 saves.
He was clearly the difference in the game and made 19 saves in the third period to keep his team afloat.
"He did amazing," Pidgeon said of his teammate. "He kept us in the game. If it wasn't for him we would have lost probably."
The winning goal was set up with a shot from the point by Jon Douglass. Crusader goalie Joshua Jacob couldn't handle the puck and gave up a rebound to Pidgeon in front of the net.
Pidgeon lifted the puck over Jacob and into the back of the net for his second of the game.
"We had a nice shift where Jon Douglass got a shot on net and I was there for the rebound," Pidgeon said.
It was the second win in a row for the Saints over one of the best teams in the state. They beat Londonderry on Saturday and are now 7-4-1. Memorial had its six-game win streak snapped and is now 9-2.
"Offensively we didn't finish," Memorial coach Mark Putney said. "It's not who gets the most shots it's who scores the most goals."
Brady Sufat scored with 2:59 left in regulation to give the Crusaders a 3-2 lead and a ton of momentum heading into the final minutes.
Then, with just more than a minute left, Leach called a timeout just before a faceoff in his own zone. He designed a play to get the puck out of their end so he could pull the goalie, which worked, and as soon as the Saints got the puck in the Memorial zone Boulanger ripped a wrist shot from the point that beat Jacob to make it 3-3 with 42 seconds left.
Rolling just two lines the entire game in which the Crusaders continuously pounded the offensive zone, the advantage should have gone to Memorial in overtime. But the Saints seemed to have more spring in their step and capitalized when it counted most.
"In practice they're used to the reps," Leach said. "We've been playing like that all year, two maybe three lines, the kids are in pretty good shape."
After a scoreless first period, Brendan Sullivan got the Crusaders on the board when he scored at 4:48 of the second period. St. Thomas tied it up 1-1 on a goal by Jon Douglass with 7:29 left in the second and 18 seconds later Kyle Broussard gave the lead back to the Crusaders when he scored to make it 2-1.
That was the score after two periods of play. Pidgeon tied the game 2-2 with his first goal at 5:17 of the third, then Sufat and Boulanger exchanged their goals over the last three minutes of regulation to force overtime.
"Luckily we've put in two solid games in a row," Leach said. "It just shows them what they're capable of and how they can play."firstname.lastname@example.org