ATTLEBORO, Mass. – Heading into the final six games of the regular season, Oliver Ames needed at least five wins and a tie in order to qualify for the postseason, but for the second time in 11 days the Tigers found themselves trailing Attleboro as the second period was winding down.
Last time out, in the league meeting between the two teams, the Tigers scored three times in the third period to pull out the win. On Wednesday evening at the New England Sports Village, OA didn’t wait quite as long to rally. Cam Perron tied the game with two minutes left in the second and then broke the tie four minutes into the third to power the Tigers to a 2-1 victory and a season sweep of the Bombardiers.
“We’ve had to grind out wins all season long, so being down a goal or two goals, these kids don’t give up,” said OA coach Mike Zucarelli. “It’s something I’m really proud of them.”
OA dominated the first period, outshooting the Bombardiers 11-4 and pinning the hosts back in the defensive zone for long stretches. Ross Carroll had one of the early looks with a wrister that Attleboro goalie Nick Piazza saved but dropped in front of the crease causing a scrum. Perron nearly broke the deadlock when he slipped in between two defenders but Piazza smothered the partial break.
Attleboro created a couple of scoring opportunities late in the period. Aidan Dryjowicz skated in from the left side but shot wide at the near post and then Ryan Morry struck the post with a wrist shot from the right circle. After Brad Powers had his close-range shot stuffed by Piazza, Jaydin Rossi snuck out and got behind the OA defense for a last-second breakaway that Owen Connor was able to stretch and save.
The late flurry at the end of the first period was foreshadowing for a much better start to the second for the Bombardiers. Attleboro needed only 28 seconds after the intermission to grab the lead. Nate Parker saucered a perfect pass to Owen Dryjowicz on a two-on-one break and the junior finished at the far post to make it 1-0.
“It was horrible,” Attleboro coach Mark Homer said of the first period. “We talked about it in the locker room and they realized that we can compete with OA. This was a game that we could’ve won, so it’s a matter of settling down, control your emotions, and go out there and do the simple things.”
The game got more physical as the period wore on and a procession to the penalty box ensued. Both teams found themselves guilty of giving away power play opportunities and scoring chances. Aidan Dryjowicz skated through a pair of defenders and forced Connor into a stop and then Ryan Gottwald sprung Costello with a perfect two-line pass, but Piazza made the blocker save.
With 2:03 left in the second, Perron caught the Attleboro blue line pinching in on the power play and Costello hit him with a perfect pass to spring a breakaway. This time, Perron gave Piazza no chance by going bar-down to make it 1-1.
OA started the third period with 2:43 of power play time, including a full two minutes with a two-man advantage. The Tigers thought that they made it count when Perron fired a shot from the point that smashed the bar on its way into the back of the net, only to be ruled out because there was a man in the crease.
Piazza also denied the Tigers on a pair of golden scoring chances. Gottwald got the first look from the left side of the net only to have Piazza kick out the right pad to stop what looked like a sure goal. Costello followed up on the rebound but again the sophomore netminder was able to respond quickly to block it and help the Bombardiers get back to even strength.
Homer said, “I thought he had a rough start, he wasn’t seeing the puck well, wasn’t controlling his rebounds, but this is the thing about Nick, he doesn’t let that bother him. You saw in the second and third periods, he’s a stalwart. He regains his focus and he plays for the next shot.”
The Attleboro goalie stood no chance on the go-ahead score. While falling down in the high slot, Perron was able to squeeze a shot through traffic in front of goal, past the unsighted goalie, off the bar (again) and into the back of the net.
Zucarelli joked, “He went bar-down in the second and a kid on the bench said, ‘You won’t do that again,’ and he went and did it two more times just too bad the second one didn’t count.”
Morry forced a blocker save out of Connor with a chance from the left side, Duncan Pereira was denied by Piazza on a shorthanded breakaway chance, and Power saw a chance go off the post, as both teams continued to fashion scoring opportunities in the closing minutes.
“It was a 2-1 game, you’ve got to put the puck on net,” said Homer. “We should’ve been in a better rhythm. We didn’t get into a rhythm until the late stages of the game.”
Zucarelli credited the Tigers for not getting down when they fell behind or when they failed to make the long power play count at the beginning of the third and finding a way to pull out a win.
“Our record shows that we got off to a real slow start,” he said, “and they had the option to put their heads down and sulk and see if it continues or to grind it out and work hard and get better and that’s what they’ve done. That third period showed the work that the team has put in all season.”
Oliver Ames (5-9-2) will try to keep things heading in the right direction on Saturday in a trip to King Philip. Attleboro (4-10-1) still has its own playoff hopes through the Sullivan rule and will travel to Stoughton this weekend.