Simon Campbell gets through a pack of Kennett skaters during MAIL’s 3-2 loss on Jan. 25. Jeff Lajoie. (click for larger version)
January 30, 2012LACONIA – It wasn't a win, but the Moultonboro Academy/Inter-Lakes hockey team showed it can play with anybody in Division III on Jan. 25.
The host Renegades had numerous chances to tie the game in the third period and force overtime, but undefeated Kennett High School of North Conway held on for a tight 3-2 victory in action at Laconia Ice Arena.
"It was a good loss, if there is such a thing," said MAIL coach Kevin Campbell. "A game like this proves we can skate with anyone in this division. It's a morale boost for our club."
High-flying Kennett (8-0) came in averaging 7.4 goals per game, making quick work of the bulk of its schedule. The Eagles looked poised for another easy day at the office early, as Nick Massa put the visitors on the board just 2:55 into the first period when he banged home a rebound to put his side up 1-0.
But MAIL regrouped after the tough first goal, with Chris Brown getting a dangerous shot away on Kennett goalie John Bishop with 9:42 left after a defensive giveaway. Bishop would make nine saves in the first period, keeping the Renegades off the scoreboard in the process.
The visitors struck again with 4:50 left before the first intermission, as Dillon Smith got in alone on MAIL goalkeeper Connor O'Neil (37 saves), beating the sophomore up high with a backhand to double the advantage at 2-0.
Trailing 2-0 after one period, Campbell preached patience with his club, as the Renegades still had ample scoring chances despite the early deficit.
"I just told the team that we're skating right with them, let's just keep it up in the next period and try and win that period," the coach said.
Senior defenseman Sander Danielovich echoed that sentiment.
"Coach just told us we needed to bring it all together," he explained. "We didn't play badly in that first period so we just needed to stick with what we were doing and the goals were going to start coming."
That message was received loud and clear by the Renegades in the second, as the team earned a power play just 18 seconds into the frame. MAIL took full advantage of the extra man, with a faceoff win in the offensive zone finding the stick of Danielovich just inside the blue line. With plenty of traffic set up in front of Bishop, Danielovich unleashed a wrist shot that found the back of the net to cut the lead in half at 2-1 with 13:55 left in the second. It was the first goal of the season for Danielovich.
"I've played a lot of these (Kennett players) since seventh and eighth grade so it was nice to get my first goal against these guys," the defenseman said with a smile.
MAIL wasn't done however, as a great hustle play by junior forward Tim Casey enabled him to get the puck into the zone. Fighting for possession behind the net, linemate Simon Campbell managed to work it free from the scrum of players, and he sent a perfect pass in front to a wide-open Brown. The junior forward ripped the puck into an open net, beating an out of position Bishop with 8:31 left to tie the game at 2-2.
"We moved Chris Brown from defense up to forward on the first line after the first period and he helped out tremendously," said coach Campbell.
Simon Campbell hit the post on a MAIL power play just three minutes later, and it appeared as though the momentum was firmly on the side of the Renegades as the second period wound down. Kennett had other ideas however, as Connor Todd got out on a breakaway late in the stanza, and he roofed a beautiful shot over O'Neil with just 1:01 left before intermission to give the visitors a lead again at 3-2.
Down but not out, MAIL (5-4 after the loss) regrouped in the third period, as the Renegades got some key early saves from O'Neil to stay within striking range. On a power play with 8:36 left, Casey appeared to tip home the potential tying goal, but the referee waved it off due to a questionable high stick, deeming Casey's club was higher than the crossbar when he made contact with it.
Just 13 seconds later however, Kennett was called for another penalty, giving the Renegades a 5-on-3 advantage for over a minute of action. Campbell called timeout, enabling him to get his best five skaters on ice for the crucial power play.
Despite peppering Bishop in the Kennett net, MAIL was unable to get the equalizer, and the Eagles withstood another power play late in the period to escape Laconia with the 3-2 win.
"We had a lot of opportunities late in that game," admitted Danielovich. "We were so close on a bunch of chances but (Kennett) did a good job getting the puck out of their zone when they needed to. They're definitely one of the top teams though so if we play like we did today, I think we can skate with everyone."
Kennett held a 40-30 advantage in shots on the night, though the teams were even in the third period at 11-11.
"We had a lot of shots in that two-man advantage…their goalie made some beautiful saves," explained coach Campbell. "Overall we had a lot of chances in the third so I'm very happy about the way we played. We just came up a bit short."