Gaworski saves Yellojackets playoff chances
HARMAR TWP. — Deer Lakes head coach Al Pawloski made no bones about it.
After his team dropped a 7-3 decision to division-rival Freeport Monday, Pawloski knew exactly why his team fell a game behind the Yellowjackets in the standings.
"Clearly the difference was goaltending," Pawloski said. "Some of the goals that went in shouldn't have. It was demoralizing.
"And their goaltender (Derik Gaworski) was outstanding. I don't know how he didn't make the all-star team."
Derik Gaworksi stopped 21 shots, including several spectacular saves, while his counterpart, Deer Lakes' Roman Drienovsky, stopped only 14 of the 21 shots thrown his way.
"I don't think we got outplayed," Pawloski said. "I'm proud of my skaters —they played hard and played smart. It came down to goaltending."
Freeport scored two goals in a span of nine seconds midway through the first period and had a 3-0 lead going into the second. Jesse Wells, Troy Barker and Tom Christy scored in the first.
"We definitely wanted to get the lead," Freeport head coach Jim Hill said.
Not only did Freeport get the early lead, it did so thanks to Wells and Barker —two players who aren't the Yellowjackets top snipers.
"It was nice to see them score," Hill said. "It really got us going. They sparked the rest of the team."
Mike Bender's long slap shot from the top of the left faceoff circle sailed past Drienovsky just 1:30 into the second to give the Yellowjackets a comfortable 4-0 advantage.
It wasn't comfortable for long.
The Lancers got on the board 3:31 later when Jason Graney scored on a power play. Just 2:16 after Graney's tally Andreas Backstrom beat Derik Gaworski with a blistering wrist shot from the high slot to cut Freeport's lead to 4-2.
Deer Lakes got the chance it needed shortly after when the Yellowjackets took two ill-advised penalties to give the Lancers a two-man advantage for 56 seconds.
But Freeport's penalty killing unit, which scored three goals in last week's win over Somerset, killed off both penalties to thwart Deer Lakes' rally.
"That was a real big penalty kill," Hill said.
To further the damage, Dustin Gaworski scored on a great individual effort with 40 seconds left in the second to make it 5-2. He deked a defenseman to the ice, broke in alone on Drienovsky and beat the goalie with a perfectly placed wrist shot to the upper corner.
"That was a huge turnaround," Pawloski said. "If we score a goal on that power play...then they get that late goal."
Freeport wasn't about to let Deer Lakes get back into Monday's contest. Especially after the team's first meeting this year, when the Lancers rallied to tie the game late in regulation then won it in overtime.
"I told the kids to keep that last game in the back of their minds," Hill said. "No matter how big a lead we got, I didn't want to go in a defensive shell. I wanted to keep playing our game."
Bender and Bryant Hank scored early goals in the third to put the game out of reach.
Bender had yet another impressive game, scoring two goals and adding four assists. He now has 28 goals and 23 assists on the season.
Dustin Gaworski had a goal and three assists and Christy contributed three points from the blue line.
Graney had two goals to lead Deer Lakes. Sean McIntyre had two assists.
Freeport improved to 10-5 in the division and still trails Westmont-Hilltop (11-3) and Mars (14-0). The Yellowjackets, who are riding a five-game winning streak, play at Mars Thursday.
"We're clicking at the right time," Hill said.