Keystone Oaks hockey bounces back from two-game skid to defeat Carrick
It was a rough week for the Keystone Oaks hockey team.
After going on a six-game win streak to clinch a spot in the PIHL Open Class playoffs, the Golden Eagles suffered two straight losses — 6-4 to Hollidaysburg and 6-2 to Ford City.
Back-to-back losses were something the Golden Eagles hadn't experienced since November, when they dropped games to Greensburg Salem and Ford City. What made the recent losses so frustrating was that Keystone Oaks had a chance at victory in both games.
The Golden Eagles were up, 3-0, against Hollidaysburg in the second period before the Golden Tigers scored four straight goals to take the lead. Against Ford City, Keystone Oaks fell behind, 3-0, before cutting the lead to a goal. The Golden Eagles weren't able to pull any closer to the Sabers.
But an 8-1 win over Carrick helped improve the week for Keystone Oaks.
“The one thing when we play Carrick is a lot of the kids live close to each other,” Keystone Oaks coach Mike McCarthy said. “They all know each other from being down here at (the Ice Castle). It doesn't matter what our record is or what their record is, it is always a tough game.”
It didn't take the Golden Eagles long to find the net as Ryan Ribeau scored a goal off an assist from Ryan Rosato less than two minutes into the game.
After both squads were whistled for penalties, John Conley sent the puck into the net during the 4-on-4 situation to put Keystone Oaks up, 2-0.
Frank Fingers added a third goal for the Golden Eagles late in the period before Christopher Schmitt scored Carrick's only goal of the evening.
Rosato went on a scoring tear in the second period, netting both of the Golden Eagles' goals — one off an assist from Cody Dulski and another from Eugene Barilla.
Bryton Tomko got the scoring started in the third period on a breakaway, unassisted goal.
Midway through the period, Nicolas Jaras collected the puck off a faceoff in the left circle and sent it into the goal to push Keystone Oaks' lead to six.
Rosato completed the hat trick 40 seconds later. The senior led the Golden Eagles with five points. Tomko added two.
“The team did a good job of keeping Carrick spread out,” McCarthy said. “And we really rallied around the goaltender.”
Backup goalie Michael Meyer got the call after starter Jonathan Mead played in Keystone Oaks' two losses earlier in the week.
Mead has been a cornerstone of the Golden Eagles' success, recording 327 saves and an .838 save percentage this season.
Meyer has been impressive in his limited starts, picking up a 3-0 mark and a 2.56 goals-against average.
“We have been trying to get him time on the ice when we can,” McCarthy said. “Mead played (against Ford City and Hollidaysburg), so we wanted to give him a break. We wanted (Meyer) to get quality ice time. You never know — he is an injury away from being the man.
“He really stepped up and did what he had to do.”
Getting back on the winning track was important for the Golden Eagles. The six-game winning streak —which included wins over playoff-bound Greensburg Salem and Baldwin — came as a result of the team returning to 100 percent. Keystone Oaks battled through a rough spell plagued by injuries and suspensions until the team team's 9-2 win over Frazier — the start of the streak.
“We finally got all the boys back on the ice, and they started to gel,” McCarthy said.
Keystone Oaks is a lock for the fifth seed in the Open Class playoffs. Its opponent — the fourth seed –— has yet to be determined but will likely either be Greensburg Salem or Hollidaysburg, depending on how each team performs over the final two weeks of the season.
Keystone Oaks returns to the ice tonight, Thursday, to take on Frazier at the Mt. Lebanon Ice Rink. The puck drops at 9:10 p.m. The Golden Eagles defeated Frazier, 9-2, on Jan. 14.
Nathan Smith is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-388-5813.