Thrice as nice

Meredith’s three goals pace Steelers in 4-3 win

OBSERVER Photo by Mary Ann Wiberg Dunkirk-Fredonia’s Mike Meredith takes a shot on net during his team’s Western New York High School Club Hockey League game against City Honors-Cardinal O’Hara, on Sunday, at the Steele Hall Ice Arena. The Steelers won, 4-3.

Mike Meredith’s goal with 3:52 remaining in the second period proved to be the game-winner Sunday night, as the Dunkirk-Fredonia Steelers (7-4-1) earned a 4-3 win over Western New York High School Club Hockey White Division foe City Honors-Cardinal O’Hara at the Steele Hall Ice Arena.

He really sets the tone for a lot of games, and I thought he had a tremendous night,” Dunkirk-Fredonia head coach Jay Bishop said.

Meredith did in fact have a tremendous night, as he accounted for three of the Steelers’ four goals, including their first and third tallies of the night while also adding an assist on Ryan Thompson’s goal in the first.

“Mike’s a huge asset to our team,” Bishop said. “He’s a goal scorer, he’s a leader and a great captain, but you can’t be successful with just one guy or one line. We have to have buy-in and contributions from the whole team, but Mike’s a huge catalyst.”

Meredith got the Steelers’ going with 6:53 left in the opening period on a feed from Chris Buchanan and Christian Michalski, as Dunkirk-Fredonia took advantage of the first of its four power-play opportunities on the night.

“I think it’s important for our team to come out with intensity,” Bishop said. “Historically this season, we’ve been having trouble winning the third period, so I get nervous if we get too much of a lead at the beginning of the game. But the kids did a good job of maintaining the lead and they really rallied and I was really happy with their play and happy with the goal tending, and I saw a lot of good signs at this point in the season that we’re really coming together as a team.”

The lead was short-lived, however, as Andrew Rose scored just 31 second later to tie the game, beating Nick Novelli during a scrum for the puck in front of the Steelers’ net.

Thompson answered the Rose goal just over four minutes later, as he was able to beat City Honors-Cardinal O’Hara keeper Chase Moreland following a face-off deep in the CHOH end.

“If you look at the play away from the puck and the play with the puck, I saw so many players make great decisions (Sunday) and Ryan Thompson I thought had one of the best games he’s had all year. He really did a lot of great things and I’m really glad he was able to put the puck in the net, too.”

The Steelers’ were unable to hang onto their lead for long though, as Ben Portman took advantage of a miscue by the Dunkirk-Fredonia defense to beat Novelli with just 1:17 off the clock in the second period.

“That’s the thing that hurt us the first time we played them,” Bishop said of his team’s inability to clear its defensive zone on Portman’s goal. “So if you make a mistake like that against a team like City Honors-Cardinal O’Hara they’ll make you pay for it. But again, the kids rebounded and they didn’t get discouraged by any of the goals City Honors-Cardinal O’Hara had and they just kept piling on the goals and piling on the intensity.”

Tied 2-all, Meredith went back to work, putting the Steelers up for good with 14:12 left in the second period, as Dunkirk-Fredonia took advantage of another power-play opportunity. Buchanan cleared the puck off the boards from deep in the Steelers’ end and Meredith was able to out-skate the CHOH defense to the puck, where he corralled it and beat Moreland to the glove side.

“If we can be 50 percent I’ll be happy,” Bishop said of his team’s production on the power play Sunday. “We’ve been working on our power play a lot in practice and have been working on a couple of different strategies on our power play, so I was really happy to see that we were successful.”

Meredith then added his third goal later in the second to put the Steelers up 4-2, but even with the two-goal lead, Bishop was not as confident as one might think. And you would be hard-pressed to blame him, as Rose opened the third period with a goal on a turnover in the Dunkirk-Fredonia end just 26 seconds into the final frame.

“I always get worried with the way we play in the third period, but that really was a fluke goal,” Bishop said. “It went off the referee’s skate and onto the kid’s stick, so it’s hard to get upset over those type of goals, because they just happen in hockey. It was a fluke goal, the kids got that, they didn’t get rattled, they just came back stronger and ended up winning the game.”

The Steelers’ defense tightened up, however, Dunkirk-Fredonia was able to hold of CHOH for the win.

“I think we were a lot more responsible in our defensive zone,” Bishop said when asked what he thought the difference between Sunday’s performance against City Honors-Cardinal O’Hara and the way they lost to it 4-1 on Nov. 22. “We were able to get pucks out, which was key for us and something we weren’t able to do last time. And I think we had a lot of shots on goal against them, but we weren’t able to put them in the net, and I think our intensity level was so much better this game compared to the last game.”

With the win, the Steelers are now tied with CHOH in the White Division standings, and will have a chance to win the season series next Sunday when the two teams square off at 10:45 a.m. back at the Steele Hall Ice Arena.

“We were behind them and now I think we’re tied for second with City Honors-Cardinal O’Hara,” Bishop noted. “So we want to continue winning games because the top two teams in our division will get a bye in the first round of the playoffs, so we want to make sure we’re one of those top two teams.”

NOTES: Dunkirk-Fredonia outshot CHOH, 30-16, on the night… Buchanan had three assists on the night while Michalski added two… The three goals for Meredith pushed his season total to 20 and he now has 28 points on the year, which puts him second in the WNYHSCHL behind Wilson-Newfane’s Danny Dy’s 32 points (22 goals, 10 assists)… The win in net was Novelli’s sixth of the season, which ties him for second in the league with Moreland. Both are one behind Wilson-Newfane’s Trey Rees, who has seven.