Third-period surge carries Thomas Jefferson past Freeport
A two-week layoff did nothing to change Freeport's penchant for close hockey games.
The Yellowjackets got a late goal from Hunter Kepple but couldn't get the second they needed to tie, as Thomas Jefferson held on for a 5-4 win at the Belmont Ice Complex on Thursday.
Kepple and Nick Rusak both had a goal and two assists, and Mickey Frazetta and Tyler Sherrieb also had goals for Freeport (1-2-2), which has had four of its five games decided by two goals or fewer.
“The teams are all pretty closely matched this year, and if you give up a power-play goal or hit a post when you have a chance to put the puck in the net, you're going to lose those close games,” Freeport coach Mel Reichenbaugh said.
Nicholas Tamburi had two goals, including the game-winner, for Thomas Jefferson (4-3-1). Zach Uhlyar, Tommy Kimmick and Brendan Mason also scored for the Jaguars.
The teams entered the third period tied 3-3 but things quickly turned against the Yellowjackets. An elbowing call against Rusak put the Jaguars on the power play just 20 seconds into the period, and with the man advantage, Mason poked in a rebound to give his team a one-goal lead.
Tamburi made the score 5-3 on a wrist shot with 10:43 left in the game, and the Yellowjackets badly needed to swing the momentum.
“We just came out a little flat and seemed to be on our heels for the first half of the period,” Reichenbaugh said. “We made a good comeback later in the period, but it wasn't enough.”
“That was my fault on the penalty. We all make mistakes, and I made one on the penalty,” Rusak said. “We didn't give up. We just kept going.”
A penalty for too many men on the ice seemed to halt Thomas Jefferson's momentum, and with 4:30 left in the game, Kepple carried a pass from Jared Kapustik into the zone and scored with a wrist shot from the right circle.
The Yellowjackets continued to keep up the pressure and outshot TJ, 28-22, but two flurries in front of the Jaguars goal in the final minute came up empty for Freeport.
Matt Huston made 17 saves for Freeport, and Thomas Jefferson goalie Nick Ripepi turned away 24 shots. The Yellowjackets also had three shots hit the post in the game, two of which came in the first period.
The game was Freeport's first since Nov. 21 because of a snow postponement last week, and the Yellowjackets' five games played is the fewest in Class A.
“We all played together last year, but there are a few new guys, and we're all still trying to connect out there,” Rusak said. “We just have to work harder.”
“I don't want to use (the layoff) as an excuse, because in the first period, we seemed all right,” Reichenbaugh said. “It was just that third period when we came out flat, and I don't understand why we were flat at home with a decent crowd here.”