NHIAA Boys' Hockey: Trinity, Concord tie in battle of goalies
Credit goes to Concord's defense, which stuck with its game plan of preventing the league's third-most proficient scoring team (31 goals) from penetrating the middle of the ice.
"It was the best defensive game we've played so far this season," declared 27-year Concord head coach Duncan Walsh, who has a hall of fame resume with six state championships, three runner-up state crowns and over 370 wins.
Walsh knows his team (2-2-2) is not equipped to beat high-scoring teams such as Manchester Memorial, Central and Trinity. His team has just 13 goals all season.
But what Walsh's defense will try to do - and successfully did Sunday - is bottle up the middle, force teams to attack wide on the wings and settle for primarily one shot.
"Goals will be hard to come by for us, so we have to be defensive-minded and patient on offense," said Walsh. "Today we managed to find a way to get two past one of the best goalies in the state who doesn't surrender many rebounds."
Senior Ryan Slatky stood tall in front of the Pioneers' cage, stopping 29 shots. But his counterpart, freshman Ben Nelson, was equally impressive, with 25 saves. Nelson forced the overtime period when he made a terrific glove save on Kyle Valliere's shot labeled for the top corner with 18.9 seconds left in regulation.
Slatky preserved the tie with 2:54 left in the overtime session, stopping a one-timer with his chest from Mitchell Hayes, who was parked alone just outside the crease.
"We had many opportunities, but we also took too many high shots," said Walsh. "You're not going to beat Slatky high many times."
Trinity (4-3-1) is still searching for its first two-game winning streak of the season. This tie does follow a victory and, considering he had some kids absent with the flu, Trinity coach Mike Connell gladly took the point.
"We had to patch some lines together," said Connell. "We didn't generate much offense today, and give coach Walsh and his team some credit for it. We didn't start out fast today and in stretches we weren't discipline enough. We took some penalties, which gave them more opportunities to control the puck in our end."
Concord set the tempo with a first-period goal by Braden Smith, who backhanded a loose puck as he was skating across the cage. Mitch Myers answered for Trinity with his eighth goal one minute before the period expired, skating down the right wing before his shot rang the far post and deflected into the net.
Concord caught a break in the second period. In traffic, just as Slatky lost his balance and fell to the ice, Smith slid and poked home a loose puck for his second goal of the game and fourth of the season.
Trinity was fortunate to be down 2-1 after two periods. Concord, 0-for-4 with the man advantage in the game, failed to convert on two power-play attempts in the period.
Nelson was holding the fort down well, giving up few second and third chances. But with 6:38 left, after making an initial chest save on his knees, Nelson relinquished a rebound in traffic to Drew Merrick who banged it home for the tie.
"We're still a young team, trying to jell," said Connell.
Trinity, tied for fourth place with St. Thomas Aquinas of Dover and Salem, will host Pinkerton on Wednesday. Concord returns to action today against Hanover at Campion Rink in West Lebanon.