Steelers give up late goal, fall to Chiefs in 2OT
The Dunkirk-Fredonia Steelers hockey team came into the postseason looking to start another magical run to win their third state title in just four years.
After it was all said and done, the Steelers will have to wait one more year to take another crack at it.
Chiefs’ forward Paul Fitzgerald with two seconds left in regulation to tie the game and then teammate Carl Wawrayniak scored the double-overtime winner to top off their comeback to beat the Steelers, 6-5 on Monday at Steele Hall Ice Arena.
After splitting the regular season with Iroquois-Alden (No. 5 seed), Dunkirk-Fredonia (No. 4 seed) knew they would have their hands full for this one.
“We just made a couple of mental errors,” said Steelers’ head coach Mark Taylor. “We got tired and (Iroquois-Alden) had the mental toughness to come back.”
Even though the Steelers controlled the pace of play for much of the night, it wasn’t easy sledding right off the bat.
In fact, it was only 50 seconds in when Iroquois-Alden’s Paul Fitzgerald scored off of a rebound to give the Chiefs the very early 1-0 lead.
It didn’t get better for the Steelers either as they went short handed and Iroquois-Alden capitalized on the power play with a shot from the blue line by Dylan Giancarlo, making it 2-0.
“Getting pucks on net was the gameplan from the start — we just didn’t execute early on,” said Taylor.
The Steelers, however, continued to apply pressure in the offensive zone. They got rewarded late in the first period as Alexander Paluch tapped in a shot from the point by Jim Rush IV after it squeaked through the Chief’s goaltender.
This gave the Steelers life, cutting the score to 2-1 heading into the second period.
Early in the second period the Steelers were able to even the score up on a breakaway goal from Shaun McGinty. After that, Michael Norton took the puck off the faceoff and scored on a nifty backhanded shot to give the Steelers their first lead of the night at 3-2.
Adjustments were made, and there’s no doubt Dunkirk-Fredonia was applying all the pressure.
“We were able to put more pressure on them,” said Taylor of the Steelers’ second period turn around. “We skated a little harder, got more pucks to the net and were able to crash the net for some rebounds.”
The Chiefs rebounded just a minute later tying the score at 3-3, but Michael Persch was able to let a shot go from the point that trickled in to give the Steelers a 4-3 lead going into the third period.
After committing an astounding nine penalties on the night, the Steelers found themselves on the penalty kill yet again late in the third period.
However, a great effort by Zachary Korzeniewski netted the Steelers a short handed goal and a 5-3 lead with less than four minutes to play.
But 30 seconds later, the Chiefs’ defenseman Cole Miller let a slapper go to cut back into the Steelers’ lead.
“We have a young team,” said Taylor. “A couple of mental errors and not getting the puck out — they took advantage and we didn’t.”
While Iroquois-Alden was pressuring with under a minute left, Miller then took a penalty to leave his team short handed, stacking all the odds against the Chiefs.
But a mad rush down the ice with less than 10 seconds left got the Chiefs’ Fitzgerald open on goal for a rebound to tie the game and send it into overtime.
It was heartbreak for the Steelers.
“All of these freshmen and sophomores got a ton of experience this season,” said Taylor. “I thought all of these guys learned a lot of lessons during this playoff game.”
The Steelers finished the year with a record of 5-8-3-2 and while the ending to this season does hurt, there’s plenty to look forward to for this program.
“We only had three senior skaters and four juniors,” said Taylor. “The rest are all freshmen and sophomores. We’ll have a lot of experience coming back next season.”