Steelers take early lead, but fall to North Stars, 6-4

OBSERVER Photo by Ron Szot Pictured above, Dunkirk-Fredonia Steelers’ Michael Norton (87) celebrates a goal during a hockey game on Saturday at Steele Hall Ice Arena.

With playoffs looming near, the Dunkirk-Fredonia Steelers sought to end the regular season the right way, with a win over WNYHSCHL White Division opponent Wilson-Newfane.

Trailing by one goal with 30 seconds left in the game, the Steelers found themselves with a final offensive zone faceoff. The Steelers won the draw and were able to set up a play, but the North Stars seemed to be one step ahead getting a huge shot block that led to a 160-foot empty net goal.

Trailing by two yet again with barely any time on the clock, the Steelers had to settle for a 6-4 loss.

The Steelers had an electric start to the morning as they came out buzzing — winning puck battles, generating opportunity and causing frustration among the visitors. Only three minutes into the game, the Steelers drew a roughing call, giving them the first power play of the game.

Dunkirk-Fredonia was unable to convert on the man-advantage, but soon after Jared Glowniak was able to get the games’ first goal with the assist courtesy of Shaun McGinty.

“For 34 minutes we outplayed them,” said Steelers coach Jim Rush. “We generated a lot of opportunities. We rolled lines and it showed that it worked.”

The Steelers continued to dominate the entire first period, adding another tally when Dawson Bird cleaned up a rebound on the power play, giving Michael Persch credit with the assist.

The second Dunkirk-Fredonia goal appeared to wake up Wilson-Newfane as they responded immediately by generating an odd man rush off the center-ice faceoff. The opportunity was shut down by Gabriel Persch in net and after one period the Steelers had the worst lead in hockey, 2-0.

The second period was more of an even battle with both teams seeing plenty of opportunity, the main difference was the performance between the pipes. With the North Stars’ skill players starting to become more relevant, Gabe Persch stood tall, shutting down everything he could see and getting in front of his rebounds not allowing great second opportunities.

“Gabe played well,” said Coach Rush. “He’s a rock back there and that allows us to do what we do up front. When we’re playing our game up front we know Gabe is going to come up with a save and we’re going to be able to turn around and create opportunity.”

Dunkirk-Fredonia dominated even-strength in the second period with plenty of possession, the only thing that would get in the way of the Steelers was themselves. The Steelers took a penalty that prevented a great opportunity for Wilson-Newfane when Bird held Danny Dy of the North Stars. Dy had the defense beat and a hold was required to prevent the chance.

“There were just some penalties,” said Coach Rush. “Some of them were in the course of play. A penalty here, a penalty there in the course of play is ok, you can deal with it.”

Wilson-Newfane, however, did make the Steelers pay as they cashed in on their third power play chance that beat Persch on a rebound that went to an open guy backdoor. The goal breathed new life into the visitors as momentum slowed went in their favor.

Wilson-Newfane evened the score at 2-2 late in the period, appearing to set the table for a tied third period. The resilient Steelers, just when they looked down and out, responded perfectly with a final minute goal, giving the hosts a 3-2 lead headed to the third. The goal came from Michael Norton assisted by Zach Korzeniewski.

“We came right back the next shift and scored,” said Coach Rush. “That was great. We didn’t even necessarily have to score right there. It was just the work ethic and how we were able to respond to it.”

The tone was set for the third period early, it was the chance for Dunkirk-Fredonia to regain a two-goal lead. The Steelers did not get their lead back, but instead surrendered it to the North Stars in the first minute of the period. Wilson-Newfane’s captain, Danny Dy stepped up scoring the equalizer 33 seconds into the third then finding the go-ahead goal four minutes later on an extra effort play.

“Their best player in the third period showed why he’s a pretty good player,” said Coach Rush about the play of Wilson-Newfane’s Danny Dy. “We gave them a little bit of daylight. He scored two of the three goals.”

After the rally led by Dy the North Stars appeared in control of the game with their own two goal lead, 5-3, causing Dunkirk-Fredonia to take bad penalties and killing valuable time on the clock by maintaining possession.

“I’m more focused on the 34 minutes and we’ll fix the other six minutes,” said Coach Rush on the bad lull in the third period.

Seeing the game slip away the Steelers called an urgent timeout to help gather themselves and get back to what was working in the first two periods.

“You guys know what needs to be done,” said Coach Rush. “You have played enough hockey in your life, there’s not much that needs to be said. A lot of it had to do with calming them down. It’s just refocus and you try to do that.”

Shortly after the timeout the Steelers were able to get one back when Dawson Bird collected his second goal assisted by Kameron Mages. Now trailing 5-4 with four minutes to go and a comeback in sight, it appeared to be the Steelers game. That was until they took another ill-timed penalty making the possibility of getting an equalizer less likely. Despite finding a great opportunity near the end of the game on an offensive zone, Dunkirk-Fredonia could not complete the comeback, losing 6-4.

The Steelers will hope to see their performance in the first and second period carry over to their home playoff game on Monday. The Steelers will host Iroquois-Alden at Steele Hall Arena at 6:15 p.m.

“We have a day to get ready,” said Coach Rush. “Then we play Iroquois-Alden who we have beaten. I have told them we are capable of playing many playoff games. But we’re also capable of playing just one. If we come to play I like our chances.”