Blue Devils hold on for 5-3 victory

OBSERVER Photo by Justin Goetz Fredonia’s Tommy Martyn works the puck behind the Lebanon Valley net Friday in Steele Hall.

The Fredonia Blue Devils seemed to be in total control Friday night as they took a 3-0 lead over the Lebanon Valley Dutchmen of Hershey, Pa., to end the first period.

However, the Devils found themselves in too comfortable a position, and Lebanon took advantage to climb back and make things interesting. In the end, the Devils escaped with a 5-3 in the final minutes of the contest.

Fredonia dominated the first period. The Blue Devils controlled the puck for the majority of the period, keeping the Dutchmen backed up in their own zone. Fredonia easily outshot their opponent, with their first goal coming off the rebound of Lebanon Valley goalie Joel Eisenhower and punched in by Bobby Polachek 7:47 into the game.

Blue Devil forward Victor Tracy quickly followed that up with a tip-in goal off the shot by Jamie Young, who picked up the assist.

Fredonia closed the period with a Josh Biasillo goal 8:56 in off the stick of Tommy Martyn to end the first on a 3-0 run.

“It’s nice, obviously, but then the coach in you goes, ‘Okay, now they’re going to take their foot off the gas,'” Fredonia coach Jeff Meredith said.

That was the story of the second period as Lebanon Valley began to mount their comeback.After a tripping penalty was called, the Blue Devils found themselves with a three-goal lead and on the power play early in the second period. In that moment, the Dutchmen took advantage, producing some opportunistic plays underneath the nose of the Blue Devils with back-to-back shorthanded goals by Russ Armbruster (2:26) and Cole Helper (3:21) to make it a one-goal game.

Fredonia then reversed their misfortune and recovered with a short-handed goal of their own by Tracy assisted by Ryan Dunner (14:52). The Blue Devils outlasted to keep Lebanon Valley at an arm’s length holding a 4-2 lead going into the final period.

“They just worked harder than us,” Meredith said of the Dutchmens’ efforts in the second period. “It wasn’t anything tricky. They just worked hard and we didn’t have any urgency to double the puck … we were putting our own guys into one-on-one battles, and it’s a 50/50 puck at that point.”

A back-and-forth game led into an exciting third period where the game was ultimately decided by key defensive stands by Fredonia.

The Dutchmen rode their momentum into the third and got on the board early with a goal by T.J. Sneath that was assisted by Brett Johnson and Cody Pessig just 2:26 into the period. Once again, Lebanon had pressed the Devils to a one-goal game.

Fredonia had a chance to open the game up again when Ross was set up with a penalty shot after being interfered with on a break-away. The Blue Devil forward came up towards the left side and slung a wrister that was dinged off the inside post to keep the Dutchmen’s hopes alive.

The turning point of the game came about 10 minutes into the third when the Fredonia defense was backed against the wall facing a 5-on-3 offensive stand by Lebanon Valley. The Blue Devil defense hustled and remained tight knit as a unit and killed the Dutchmen power play, holding them off the scoreboard.

The Devils secured the victory within the final minute off an empty net goal by Ryan Dunn (assist by Tommy DeFelice).

“I really thought the turning point in the game was when we were up a goal and we had to kill off that 5-on-3 for almost two minutes,” Meredith said. “I thought the combination of our penalty killers and our goalie Antone (Rosen) did a great job. The game was just hanging right there in the balance.”

Tracy lead the Blue Devils with two goals on the night and was backed up by teammates Polacheck, Biasillo and Dunn as they outshot their opponent 47-29. Fredonia’s defense held tight when it mattered most and was anchored by goalkeeper Rosen, who ended the game with 26 saves.

“We found a way to get the win. … You can’t give any games away. We have to be better; we have to battle hard in Steele Hall,” Meredith said after the game. “Everybody in college hockey is good enough to beat you if you don’t work hard. … We better battle a whole lot more (Saturday) than we did tonight. We’re given 60 minutes, we got to work for 60 minutes. Anything else is a waste and we don’t want to waste time.”

The Blue Devils (2-2-0) will be back in action again tonight against the visiting Chatam Cougars.