ATTLEBORO, Mass. – After missing out on Wednesday’s trip to King Philip, Trevor Pietrzyk made an instant impact on his return to the lineup against Attleboro on Sunday afternoon at the New England Sports Village.
The senior forward scored a natural hat trick in the first period, including a penalty shot, on his way to four goals and an assist, as Taunton picked up an important 6-3 win that moves the Tigers closer to sealing a return to the postseason.
“We always tell the players, you want your absence to be felt not known and we definitely feel his absence,” said Taunton coach Kris Metea. “It was good to have him back. Four goals, four different ways, is pretty cool.”
Pietrzyk, who missed all of last season with an injury, got things started just three minutes into the game when he latched onto a rebound, following a right pad stop by Attleboro goalie Derrik Rivet, and knocked it into the empty net.
Attleboro bounced back on the power play three minutes later. Jake Parker took the face-off and danced through three Tigers in the attacking zone before teeing up Ryan Morry for a one-timer inside the left circle to make it 1-1.
The momentum would not stay with the home side for long. Two minutes after it was tied, Taunton regained the lead with Pietrzyk weaving his way through a pair of defensemen before flipping a pass to Cam Sneyd in front.
In the span of seven seconds, Pietrzyk broke the game wide open. Attleboro went on another power play but the Tigers won the face-off in the defensive zone and broke out quickly. Pietrzyk was brought down on a shorthanded breakaway and given a penalty shot, which he dispatched with a lifted backhand. Off the ensuing face-off, Pietrzyk gained the zone and flicked a wrister from outside the left circle that snuck just under the bar.
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“Trevor has got an ‘X’ factor,” said Metea. “He knows how to score goals; he’s got a nose for the net. He works hard and leaves it all on the line.”
Taunton was buzzing with a 4-1 lead, but Attleboro would not go quietly. In the final minute of the first, Parker gained the zone and fired a wrist shot from the left face-off dot that Taunton sophomore goalie Sean Bunker got a piece of but not enough to keep it out of the net.
“I thought we came out pretty good in the first period, the forecheck was going, but they had an opportunity to put a couple in,” said Attleboro coach Mark Homer. “Once we changed it up and got a goal, it gave us a little spark.”
Parker nearly cut the lead to single goal early in the second, but his shot from a bad angle skipped away off the crossbar. Morry also created a series of scoring chances as the Bombardiers racked up a 12-5 edge in shots in the second (after being outshot 14-6 in the first).
Taunton almost added a fifth at several points in the period, but were denied by goalie Evan Andrews, who was injured and could not start but was brought off the bench after the fourth goal. He made a point-blank stop on Will Walsh, who had been set up by Jaden Weyant, and then closed the period with a huge back post stop on Jack Patneaude, after Walsh picked him out with a perfect saucer pass.
“After the fourth goal, I just felt like we had to change something up and Evan was able to go in,” said Homer. “He made some big time stops at big parts of the game and gave us a chance to get back into the game.”
Attleboro did cut the lead to one heading to the third. On the power play, Morry did a good job to block a clearance at the blue line and keep the possession alive. The puck swung to defenseman Kyle McCabe and his shot from the point was deflected right to Cam Littig who made no mistake with a one-timer.
“There seemed to be a little bit of the letdown,” said Metea about the reaction to going 4-1 up. “We kept preaching do the little things right, play our system, get the puck deep, make plays and you’ll be fine. It’s a long game. You’re not going to win the game with one play or one shift.”
The Bombardiers came out for the third period intent on finding the tying goal and had a series of half-chances, including an Aidan Diggin effort at the near post on a loose puck that hit the side of the net and two chances with a man advantage, but after an early flurry Taunton settled down and limited Attleboro to few clear-cut scoring chances.
“We had our chances on the power play, but got outside of our structure a little bit,” said Homer. “Maybe it was the guys getting a little anxious and everyone wanting to individually be the hero and that happens sometimes. I think the kids pressed a little bit too much trying to get that big goal.”
The best chance of the period fell to Taunton’s Jake Roberts off a feed from Sneyd, but Andrews again went post-to-post to deny the forward. There was nothing Andrews could do a minute later, as Pietrzyk capped his night with an empty net goal. Sneyd added a second empty netter with 9.6 on the clock to make it a three-goal margin.
“If you win now, we have three more to make states,” said Metea about his message to the players. “We have a pretty favorable schedule in February once league is done and you put yourself in a much better situation.”
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