FOXBORO, Mass. – With 1:19 left in the second period, King Philip took possession in its defensive zone and with one pass turned it into a breakaway to tie the game at 2-2. The home team seemed poised to have all the momentum heading into the third until North Attleboro junior Andrew Wissler hustled the Rocketeers back into the lead.
Erik Clements flicked a puck over the top, just trying to relieve the pressure from the Warriors and clear the zone. KP defensemen were caught up the ice and Wissler flew past them to chase the puck. Sophomore goalie James Lewis was forced to leave his crease to try and play it, but Wissler beat him to it and tapped into the vacated net for his second goal of the night.
The goal provided a huge boost to North, which took momentum and carried it into the third where the Rocketeers added am early power play goal to take control. KP rallied with a late goal and a flurry of chances in the final 90 seconds, but North held on to win 4-3 and moved within one point of the program’s best single season total.
“All-in-all it was a good effort. We were down six guys with the flu and I know they were battling the same thing, so it’s tough to get the guys ready to play when half the team is sick and playing with new players, but I thought they adjusted pretty well,” said North coach Steve Snizek, who highlighted sophomore Kyle Bolgerhaving to move from forward to defense for the game.
North jumped in front inside the opening three minutes. Zach McGowan drove the puck down the right wing and all the way to the edge of the goal before sending a pass into the slot for Wissler to one-time it.
The Rocketeers outshot KP 8-7 in the period, but the Warriors had their chances, including an opportunity for Luke D’Amico stepping up into the rush on a two-on-one with Gavin Maxwell, but his shot was saved by Ryan Warren (17 saves). North’s best chance to double the lead was a chance by Clements from the right circle but Lewis (25 saves) made the stop.
KP tied the game three minutes into the second. Again it was Maxwell with the rush and Warren made a huge pad stop to deny the break only to see the rebound pop out to the stick of Collin Cooke and the junior forward roofed it.
Lewis tried to make the score stand up, stopping three shots (at least) in a huge scrum on the edge of his crease. However, two minutes later, there was nothing he could do to stop Clements. The senior went top shelf with an unstoppable wrister from the circle for a 2-1 lead.
With 2:34 left in the second, the Warriors again bounced back to tie it, despite being outshot 13-6 in the period. Garrett Maxwell picked the perfect outlet pass right on the tape of Jacob Kelly as the senior burst through the neutral zone. Kelly went racing in on Warren and beat the goalie five-hole for a 2-2 tie.
The game was only tied for 1:15 before Wissler showed off his speed and his tenacity to regain the advantage for North Attleboro.
Snizek said, “That was a hell of an effort by Drew Wissler never giving up on the play. That’s the type of player he is; he’s the workhorse of the team and it’s great to see his hard work pay off like that. that definitely gave us momentum going into the third, which was absolutely key.”
The Rocketeers came flying out of the gates in the third and got a power play opportunity. Brendan McHugh worked the puck down to Clements who had a chance blocked in front of Lewis, who had already made four saves in the period, and it caromed out to McGowan. The senior buried his one-time shot into the bottom corner for a 4-2 lead.
Although North had the two-goal edge, the game was far from over. KP continued to press to try and get back into it and Gavin Maxwell had a golden chance in the final minutes when he got behind the defense for a breakaway only to be denied by Warren.
“He’s been lights out again all season long,” said Snizek of Warren, the reigning HockomockSports.com Underclassman of the Year. “He was upset that that one trickled in but he’s made 10 beautiful saves to that one and I’ll take that any day of the week.”
The one that got away came with 1:37 remaining. Kelly got free on the right hand side and was able to put a shot on goal as he was falling down. The puck did not have a lot on it but was able to squeeze through the goalie’s pads. The whistle blew with KP looking for a penalty and North assuming it was saved, only for the refs to point to center ice.
The Warriors pulled Lewis for the extra skater and had a series of face-offs in the North end, but could not find the tying goal.
“The momentum had definitely changed to us and they we kind of got away from it a little bit,” said Snizek of the third period. “We started to hang back and second guess ourselves and obviously they capitalized on that.”
North Attleboro (12-3-3, 6-2-1) now has 27 points, one shy of last year’s program-best 28, with two games remaining. The Rocketeers will get a good playoff preview on Saturday with a trip to Medway. King Philip (4-14, 4-5) suffered its third one-goal loss of the season. The Warriors will travel to Norwood on Saturday.