Sweet Home edges Saint Francis in high-scoring affair
Ryan Stefaniak and Tyler McTigue each scored first-period goals to give Saint Francis (0-2-1) a 2-0 lead – despite being outshot, 7-4, in that span.
“I thought we outplayed them in the early stages,” said Sweet Home head coach Dave Gerspach. “But their guys did a nice job and got out to that early lead.”
Sweet Home (3-0) responded five minutes and 19 seconds into the second period, when DiNatale scored the first of his two goals. Saint Francis goaltender Pat Kinderman, who finished with 17 saves, attempted to gain control of the puck behind the net but DiNatale swooped in and made a quick cut to the front of the net – flipping a backhand shot to the opposite upper corner.
Five minutes later, Sweet Home’s Zach Hedrich evened the score, burying a nice touch-pass from Mike Mattea. Barely a minute later, DiNatale fired a low wrist shot past Kinderman – giving Sweet Home a 3-2 lead – after making a nice move to beat a Saint Francis defender in a one-on-one battle into the offensive zone.
“Randy’s pretty amazing with the puck,” Gerspach said. “He can just make the guys around him better. When he has the puck, guys have to take notice.”
Less than a minute after gaining its first lead of the game, Sweet Home jumped ahead, 4-2, when DiNatale assisted fellow captain Connor Beaudet.
And that’s when the seesaw battle got under way.
A goal by Saint Francis’ Cory Schneid rallied the Red Raiders within a goal – 44 seconds after it looked like Sweet Home might run away with the contest. One minute and 10 seconds later, Saint Francis evened the score, 4-4, when Bernie Lettieri chipped in a pass from McTigue.
However, with just 27 seconds remaining in the second period, Hedrich scored the game-winning goal, unassisted, shifting the lead back to Sweet Home, 5-4. But the action didn’t stop there.
Beaudet scored a power-play goal – on a feed from DiNatale – 45 seconds into the third period. McTigue, who finished with three points, scored a late power-play goal, but Sweet Home goaltender James Pordea held his ground during the game’s final four minutes. Pordea recorded 18 saves on the night.
“I was proud of my team at the end,” said Saint Francis head coach Craig Fattey. “We won the third period. We came back after collapsing in the middle of the game.”
Freelance sportswriter Charles Roberts covers the Western New York Varsity Hockey Federation for MetroWNY.com.