Steelers get shots, can’t find net in 3-2 defeat

OBSERVER Photo by Mary Ann Wiberg Dunkirk/Fredonia’s Mike Meredith skates with the puck during Thursday’s High School Club Hockey game at Steele Hall.

After learning his Dunkirk/Fredonia Steelers outshot visiting Olean, 44-16, during Thursday’s High School Club Hockey game, coach Jay Bishop was left scratching his head as his team fell, 3-2, at Steele Hall.

“We are outshooting teams but not putting it where the goalie isn’t,” he said. “We need to start picking corners and get the puck in the net. The good news is we are getting shots on goal. But we need to get some quality shots to go in the net. We are hitting the goalie too many times and making it too easy for him.”

The Steelers knew they were in for a challenge as Olean’s Zakary McMurray is regarded as one of the top goalies in the league.

But after a scoreless first period, the home team scored first as Nolan Mages’ shot from the point was deflected into the net by Carter D’Agostino just 46 seconds into the second frame.

“Before the game we said it would be important to screen the goaltender and get him moving,” Bishop said. “He is the toughest goalie in the league. We did a nice job screening him on that and Nolan did a nice job getting a shot on net.”

However, the Eagles responded at the 8:38 mark as Nathan Paar blasted a slap shot just inside the blue line which found the back of the net in a hurry for the equalizer.

The Steelers came right back with a goal of their own as Mike Meredith’s quick wrist shot in the top left corner gave the home team the lead. The shot was so quick McMurray did not even see the shot coming and did not react until the puck was in the net.

Once again, Olean responded. This time a mental error was to blame. After serving a two-minute penalty, Olean’s Jack Pecora stepped out of the box and began an odd-man rush. He fed Mike Weber, who put the puck into the net. The referees ruled the puck crossed the net before the horn sounded.

“I thought it was questionable, but it went in,” Bishop said. “It shows you the importance of backchecking and playing until the buzzer sounds. We let up in the last seven seconds and it came back to bite us.”

Weber also scored the game-winner with 10:13 left to play in the period.

Dunkirk/Fredonia had one final chance to tie the game as it went on the power play in the final two minutes. However, like it did all night, the power play struggled and the Steelers were unable to force overtime.

The Steelers went 0 for 6 on the power play Thursday and often failed to set up an attack inside Olean territory.

“The power play struggled, no doubt,” Bishop said. “We need to do something different. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. We are going to adjust. We can’t be a team that takes shortcuts in hockey and I saw too much of that tonight. That was the demise of our game tonight. I think we are not playing three full periods of hockey. We need to rely on every player on every shift. And that’s not happening right now.”

The Steelers now have a 2-3-1 league record and get a chance to avenge Thursday’s loss right away as the two teams square off again Sunday in Olean.

“We need to win third periods,” Bishop said. “Good hockey teams win third periods. That’s how you progress in this league. We are losing too many third periods. I’m still working and we are still experimenting with different line combinations. I saw a few things I really liked from a couple people. We have to figure out the right chemistry and the right lines and we have to do what it takes to start winning hockey games.”