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Connellsville goalie Clark makes 68 stops in 7-0 loss to Ringgold

| Monday, Oct. 28, 2013, 11:00 p.m.
Lori Padilla | For the Daily Courier
Connellsville's Dylan Wallace (blue shirt) battles for control of the puck with Ringgold's Adam Vaccaro during a PIHL Open Division game Monday, Oct. 28, 2013, at the Ice Garden in Rostraver.

Connellsville goaltender Tom Clark likely will face a lot of pucks this season. On Monday, Clark turned in an all-star level performance in a season-opening game against Ringgold at Rostraver Ice Garden.

Clark made 68 saves, but that wasn't enough to help the Falcons stop the Rams' relentless attack as Ringgold rolled to a 7-0 PIHL Open Division victory.

“We wanted to play our system and put shots on net,” Ringgold coach Josh Werner said. “Their goalie played a heck of a game.”

Ringgold (1-0) peppered Clark with shots. But Clark remained calm and froze the puck early and often, which was critical because the Falcons needed all the stoppages in play they could get. Connellsville (0-1) entered the game with just eight skaters, meaning time on the bench for everybody was short.

“We had eight skaters, and honestly, we couldn't have asked for more from them,” Connellsville coach Josh Snyder said. “They played their hearts out, and I'm real happy with all the skaters.”

Connellsville hopes to have a few more able bodies Monday for its home opener against Altoona at the Ice Mine, but against the Rams, it was all the Falcons could do on most shifts just to clear the zone. Ringgold outshot Connellsville, 75-6.

Despite the lopsided shot total, the Falcons were in the game through the first period thanks to Clark. The senior made 24 saves in the first period.

Clark was tough but not invincible. Seven minutes into the game, Ringgold finally broke through. Cullin McGinnis had the first of two goals when he poked in a rebound.

With 5 seconds left in the period, Aaron Major blasted a slap shot past Clark to make it 2-0. Major ripped two more slappers past Clark in the second period for a hat trick.

“He's strong, and he does a lot for us,” Werner said. “He's definitely a leader, and we look to him in a lot of situations. He is a great all-around player.”

Clark and McGinnis each finished with four points.

Ringgold put the game away with five goals in the second period. In addition to Major's two tallies, McGinnis scored again and Mike Hazel and Alex Nageli also had goals.

Justin Beam had a multi-point night, finishing with two assists. Riley Clineman and Ben Cafeo combined to get the shutout in goal.

“It's huge for us,” Werner said. “Last year we were 3-17, so coming out and starting strong is huge and it gives us something to build on.”

Ringgold will look for its second win Thursday at Indiana.

For the Falcons, the bright spot was the play of Clark.

“He was phenomenal,” Snyder said. “It was really strong goaltending all-around from him. He was making three or four saves at a time that were unbelievable.”

Jason Black is the local sports editor of the Daily Courier. He can be reached at jblack@tribweb.com.

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