Power plays pivotal in Ford City's comeback win
Heated by two weeks' worth of holiday break anticipation, Wednesday night's PIHL Open Class contest between Ford City and Indiana did little to reduce the hostility between the bitter hockey rivals.
The Sabers (8-1-1) used a second-period surge to recover from a two-goal deficit and secured a 7-5 win over the host Indians (9-2-1), who made a late push after trailing by three early in the third.
“I knew it'd be a back-and-forth game,” Ford City coach Glen Kilgore said. “It lived up to what it was supposed to be. It just happened that we came out on top.”
Interspersed throughout the respective runs were penalties and unpunished pushing and shoving.
Ford City had 10 power-play opportunities — Indiana had five — and made use of them scoring four goals with the man advantage.
“For me, (the power plays) were the difference in the game,” Indiana coach Dom Glavach said. “I mean, five on five, it's a foot race at that point.”
John Phelps scored the first power-play goal, poking in a rebound with 2:34 left in the first period.
Eric Lindey collected Jesse Valasek's cross-ice pass seven minutes into the second period and ripped a wrist shot to the top right corner for a power-play goal that tied the score, 3-3.
Josh Oliver scored two minutes later during a 5-on-3 rush to give the Sabers a lead they never relinquished.
And Eli Thompson had an empty-netter on the power play with 1:02 left in the game, which ended 36 seconds early due to the PIHL's curfew rule.
“We strive to make sure no one retaliates on this team because we are pretty deadly on the power play, and we want the power play,” Kilgore said. “If one of them takes something stupid, they know they're going to sit, or they're going to have a special date with me at practice.”
Noah Moody and Patrick Hunter scored to put Indiana ahead, 2-0, with more than six minutes left in the first period. Moody ripped a wrist shot in from the point on a power play, and Hunter turned a Ford City defensive-zone turnover into a tally.
Hunter, who came into the game as Indiana's top scorer with 45 points, scored again midway through the third but spent the final four minutes in the locker room after he fought with Ford City's Oliver, who was down on the ice after a slash.
The Sabers also lost their top scorer, Valasek, in the incident after he received a game misconduct for being the third man into the scrum. Valasek had Ford City's sixth goal. He has 18 goals and 19 assists this season.
“It was heat of the moment, just doing what I could to protect a teammate,” Valasek said. “(The game) got a little out of hand and not where we'd like it to be. But you can't really not expect that with a crowd like that and our two teams going at it.”
Luke Lewandowski scored 26 seconds after the fight on a rebound to bring Indiana within one. But the Sabers survived the Indians' late scramble and came away gaining the edge in the season series. The teams tied, 2-2, on Nov. 15.
Bill West is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-543-1303.