By Ryan Schwepfinger
Battling through adversity, playing well on the road, and closing out periods well are just three of the many attributes that coaches preach to instill a winning mindset in a hockey team.
On Sunday, the USPHL Flyers dug deep and were able to do all three in order to beat the Jersey Hitmen with a final score of 4-2.
It was a great response from a Philadelphia team that had lost 2-1 just the day before.
After yesterday's low-scoring encounter, both Philadelphia and Jersey started the same goaltenders (Joe Young and Kollyn Jones).
Jersey opened the scoring at 3:40. Michael Laffin took a pass up the middle and put a backhander past Young. It was the game's first significant chance, and the Hitmen took advantage of it. Danny Lopez and John Jackson drew assists on the tally.
The home team kept up the pressure after the goal, and like yesterday, Joe Young proved to be an important fixture for the Flyers. Slowly, however, the tables began to turn, and the game became relatively even in terms of puck possession and zone time.
With play largely back-and-forth, the Flyers received a major break when Conor O'Neil rang a shot off the goalpost with just over six minutes to play in the period. Young then made a quality glove save on a Hitmen two on one break—Jersey’s best scoring opportunity since their goal.
Shortly after, the Flyers barely missed an opportunity to make it 1-1. Ron Greco's stuff attempt on a rebound was denied by a sprawling Jones, who made his best save of the weekend on the play.
The orange and black received a similar two-on-one chance with 21 seconds to go in the frame, and this time, they would not be denied. Building off of their success from last weekend, Gianni Evangelisti knocked in a crossing pass from Brandon Bistodeau on a two-on-one. Ryan Badger drew the secondary assist. It was a back breaking goal for the Hitmen, who were seconds away from escaping from the first period unscathed. The teams would head to the locker room tied at one apiece.
When they emerged for the second period, the Flyers were whistled early for the game's first penalty. Bryan Lubin sat for interference, putting the Hitmen on the power play just 2:54 into the period. Philadelphia would kill it off without much difficulty.
Jersey would take a 2-1 lead shortly after the kill using a two-on-one break 6:12 into the period. Dominic Trento would make a move to his forehand lifting the puck off of the crossbar and down into the net. The goal would lead to an increase in physicality for both teams.
The Flyers would use the change in play to their advantage, tying the game at two on another transition goal. This time it would be Lubin scoring from in tight off of a pass from Bistodeau, who earned his second assist of the contest. For good measure, the Flyers then killed off another penalty (Lubin's second of the game).
With three minutes left in the period, Jeresey’s Gillespie would be called for hooking, giving the Flyers their first power play of the game. The Flyers would not waste the opportunity. Ron Greco would bury a cross-crease pass from Trevor Gooch—a huge goal for Philadelphia as they again would score in the waning stages of a period.
The third period opened much like the second ended, with the Flyers controlling play and offering Jersey little for opportunity. In controlling the pace of play, Philadelphia would draw a penalty putting them on another power play. However, they would not be able to convert.
Moments after the power play would end, the Flyers would take a penalty of their own when Lubin was called for interference. However, as they did all game long, the Flyers responded to the adversity, denying the Jersey power play and preserving their one goal lead thanks to a particularly strong sequence from Young.
The Flyers nearly made it 4-2 with just under nine minutes remaining, but Max Freeman was poke checked in the crease by Andrew DeBrincat, denying the Newtown, PA native an open net. On their very next chance, the Flyers made sure to seal the deal. Greco notched his second of the contest from nearly the same spot, doubling the advantage with another assist from Gooch.
From there, the Flyers did not have any problems closing out the game, earning their third win in four games.
My Three Stars:
1. Ron Greco, PHI – Scored the game-winning goal on the power play late in the second, and added the insurance marker in the third. Seemed to be buzzing all game.
2. Brandon Bistodeau, PHI – Provided an offensive jolt early for a team that needed one.
3. Joe Young, PHI – Extremely solid again keeping the team in the game.
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