MANCHESTER — Trinity coach Mike Connell said his team isn't playing its best hockey right now.
"We're not, but right now we're finding ways to win," said Connell after the Pioneers, behind goals from Colby Fortin, Drew Merrick and Mitch Myers, defeated Manchester Central 3-2 in a Division I encounter Wednesday at JFK Coliseum.
The Pioneers (7-3) have won four of their last five games. Central, which received power play goals from Jon Mathieu and Colin Pacheco, fell to 6-4.
It was a game of two halves. The Little Green controlled the tempo and momentum until the final 2:33 of the second period, when Trinity scored twice in a span of a minute and two seconds.Fortin, skating across the crease, gained a loose puck and flipped a backhander over Central goalie Ian Beliveau (20 saves) for the 1-1 tie.
Central head coach Brian Stone has said his team wouldn't be a top six-team in the division had it not been for Beliveau's brilliant play to this point in the season. But even the top-notch goalies have their off days. A minute after Fortin's goal, Merrick wristed a high 20-foot shot toward Beliveau, who misplayed it. The shot deflected off his glove and landed in the cage for a 2-1 Trinity lead.
In the third period, Myers, who entered the game as the top goal scorer in Division I, got a gift from Beliveau. Myers took a high shot from the right side that Beliveau handled but didn't control. The puck fell to the ice and Myers pounced on the rebound for an easy open-net tally, his 15th of the season.
Central closed the gap to 3-2 on Pacheco's power play goal with 6:39 left but couldn't convert on two more Trinity penalties in the final 3:34 of regulation.
Trinity freshman goalie Curtis Wirbal stood tall, turning back 24 shots including a point blank shot from Central's Jake Clark with 2.7 seconds left."We played well, battled to the end, but we lost the momentum and lead when they scored twice late in the second period," said Stone. "To that point in the game, I thought we played well. But they ended up scoring one more goal."
Connell said his team was fortunate not to be on the losing end. Trinity was whistled for seven penalties.
"We're not playing smart hockey right now," said Connell. "I liked how we rallied in the second period and how we were winning those battles along the board in the third period. Curtis was also aggressive and came up with some solid saves. But we're taking too many penalties and sooner or later they're going to catch up with us. You're not going to win many more close games taking seven penalties."
Moments after the game Trinity forward Tyler Tambouris was called for hitting from behind and faces a one-game suspension. "It'll be up to the NHIAA to make that decision," said one referee as he skated off the ice.