BOURNE, Mass. – Coming into the month of February, Oliver Ames junior defensemen Ryan Gottwald was in search of his first career goal.
That came just over a week into the month in a big win over Brockton. Now he can add a game-winning goal in a playoff game to his resume.
Gottwald scored his second career goal just over two minutes into the third period, and that tally proved to the be the game-winner as the ninth-seeded Oliver Ames boys hockey team skated to a win over eighth-seeded Plymouth North.
“I honestly was trying to pass it out front, I was just trying to throw it to the middle and I was surprised when it went in,” Gottwald said. “I pinched in because the puck was open so I went down and got it and was just looking for someone out front and I think it went five-hole.
“This is a big confidence booster for us, we played hard tonight, so we deserved it.”
Neither the Tigers or the Eagles could find separation for the first 25 minutes of the contest, with Plymouth North twice answering goals from OA to tie the game. And after four total goals in the first period, neither team could get an edge in the second, not until the final minutes.
Oliver Ames bookended the end of the second and beginning of the third with goals, which proved to be the difference in the game. After a strong second period, the Tigers were rewarded with a goal with just over a minute left in the frame for a 3-2 lead.
And then Gottwald opened the third with a low shot that found its way in to make it 4-2.
“We talked about getting shots to the net,” said Oliver Ames head coach Sean Bertoni. “If you have a one-on-one situation, a get a shot to the net. It doesn’t have to be pretty. Most of the goals were deflection goals so wanted to get the puck to the net, we’re not an overly cute team. Credit to Ryan, it worked out in that case. He doesn’t have a lot of shots, doesn’t have a lot of goals but if you get the puck on the net, you can be rewarded.”
Plymouth North cut the deficit to one with 2:38 when the puck was deflected from behind the net to right in front for a tap in. The Eagles pulled the goalie with just over a minute left but junior goalie Owen Connor made two big saves in the final minute, and senior Cullen Gallagher – making his return after missing a majority of the season to injury – made a terrific effort play with a diving clearance to help the Tigers kill the final seconds.
Connor finished with 35 saves, making 11 stops in the first period, 12 in the second, and 12 more in the third period for the win.
“I think his confidence got higher as the game went on,” Bertoni said. “We didn’t do a good job for him in the first period. Our defensive coverage was poor, I thought we improved in the second and third but we had some breakdowns we aren’t used to but that’s also a credit to Plymouth North.”
Oliver Ames got off to a perfect start, scoring just 1:13 into the contest. Jake Gottwald, Ryan’s twin brother, came flying in and forced a turnover, intercepting a pass at the Eagles’ blue line. Jake Gottwald went in alone on the goalie, firing a wrist shot that was stopped but the rebound fell right back to him and he buried the chance.
“I had just come off the bench, it was one of my first shifts,” Jake Gottwald said. “I took away the middle and the pass came right to me. I took the shot and was able to get the rebound, it popped out to the right side.”
The lead lasted just over two minutes as the Eagles were able to establish an offensive zone presence, and Jake Fleet tossed a puck on net that took a wild deflection and found the back of tenet to make it 1-1.
Oliver Ames went back in front, capitalizing on its first power play chance of the game. Junior Hunter Costello was extra patient with the puck on his stick, and was able to fake the defense by making a move behind the net. Instead, Costello came back to the left and found senior Max Ward flying in and hit him for a one-timer for a 2-1 lead with 4:58 left in the first.
Plymouth North once again had an answer just over two minutes later. Cam Caraher came up with a bad giveaway at the blue line from the OA defense, skated across the zone and snuck his wrist shot into the back of the net to make it 2-2.
The Eagles earned a power play chance five minutes into the second and appeared to have the go-ahead goal, celebrating as if that was the case but the ref had blown the whistle before the puck crossed and the game stayed 2-2. In the remaining time on the power play, Gallagher came up with a big clear and Connor made a terrific stop on a redirected shot.
At the midway point, the Eagles’ Jason Norwood had a partial break, going in one-on-one with OA’s Julian Krowski, and the Tiger junior won the battle, sweeping away the puck to prevent a chance from the Eagles.
OA nearly went back in front with 5:20 left in the second when Costello connected with Gallagher in front but Plymouth North goalie Jack Arnold made a terrific left-to-right push to rob Gallagher.
Freshman Bryan Kearns had one of the best chances of the frame for Oliver Ames, skating in on a partial breakaway with a defenseman riding his back. He unleashed a hard shot that Arnold got just enough of up high to keep it out.
While Kearns’ bid was turned aside, the Tigers cashed in on the ensuing face-off. Brett Williams and Gallagher linked up with Costello, who turned and fired a low shot from the right circle that banked off a Plymouth North defenseman’s skate and into the back of the net for a 3-2 lead with 1:04 left in the second.
“We played a very good second period, we started the third well, and the first period was just okay. We did an excellent job killing penalties, especially those two in the third. This is one of the most resilient groups I’ve been around, nothing really fazes them. No matter what happens, they have a quick turnaround. The effort was there tonight, nothing was really pretty tonight but we got it done. At this point in the new season, we did a good job grinding it out.
“Getting that one with two minutes left, that was huge to go into the locker room with the lead going into the third. And since we rely so much on protecting our net, having a lead in the third is big for us.”
Oliver Ames killed to Plymouth North power plays in the third period. Connor made four saves on the second extra-man opportunity, Ryan Gottwald and Gallagher had clearances, and Colin Bourne pinned the puck in the offensive zone to kill some time.
Oliver Ames boys hockey (14-8-1) advances to the D2 South quarterfinal to take on a familiar foe in league rival Canton. The Tigers, who dropped a 5-2 decision to the Bulldogs in the regular season, will renew acquittances with one of their rivals on Saturday at 6:45 at the Canton Ice House.