Taconic withstands a late St. Joseph's power play to earn a hockey victory


PITTSFIELD -- Steve Terpak expected to have one timeout for just this situation.

Late in the game, with Terpak's Taconic hockey team holding a one-goal lead over St. Joseph's, the Braves were called for a tripping penalty, giving the Crusaders a 1-minute, 30-second power play with 2:27 left. St. Joe's pulled goalie Andrew Leitch for a 6-on-4 advantage.

The Braves had their timeout, went with the matchups they wanted, and killed the penalty to preserve a 3-2 victory at the Boys and Girls Club.

"I was reserving my timeout for that exact situation, and we caught a break, because they called time out as well," Terpak said. "I said to Coach [Bob] Horne that we were going to play the same four or five guys for the next two-and-a-half to three minutes to keep our strongest guys out there."

In a game between two Hennessy League teams playing for second place in the league, as well as a Western Mass. Division III-A tournament berth, Taconic got the go-ahead goal from Ryan Bateman with 12:13 left. The game was the first of three the two teams will play against one another in a week's time, with the second game coming Saturday night.

"It definitely puts pressure on," Taconic co-captain Brian Bonacquisti said, "but it brings the best out of your team, when you've got to play for a win."

The loss means St. Joe's must win out to reach Western Mass., while Taconic earns valuable breathing room. Crusaders coach Tim Kelly liked the advantage the 6-on-4 situation gave his players at game's end.

"The time was right," he said. "It was about 2:40 left and Coach [Dan] MacWhinnie made the call. Great call. It was a perfect opportunity time-wise. It was definitely the right thing to do."

Eric Leitch put St. Joe's in front at first, speeding past Taconic defenders along the far side of the rink and then skating in front of the crease to beat Leary. Two minutes later, Taconic got even as Bonacquisti grabbed a turnover in the St. Joe's end, skated in untouched and beat Andrew Leitch at the 7:35 mark.

The Braves weren't done, though, as Nick Whittaker unleashed a slap shot at the 8:55 mark that found the net and gave the Braves a 2-1 lead.

That lead would hold until the first minute of the second period. Dan Flynn knocked a rebound past Taconic goalie Brenden Leary just 39 seconds into the period to tie the game at 2. From there, both teams had chances -- hitting the goal post within about 90 seconds of one another in the second period -- but the score remained tied until Bateman got a shot past Andrew Leitch.

"We were having huge trouble trying to get it out," Bateman said. "When I noticed their defense was off, I took the rush up and took advantage of it."

Terpak was happy with the win, but he knows that the Braves' work is far from done. They have two games left with St. Joe's, followed by Hennessy champion Wahconah, Chicopee Comp and Wahconah again to finish the regular season.

Before Saturday, the coach would like to see Taconic get more consistent on breakouts, and work on getting the puck out of its own zone quicker.

"It wasn't consistently bad," he said, "but when we're good, we're real good. When we're bad, we're real bad."

Kelly, meanwhile, wants the Crusaders to play with the same sense of urgency they had Wednesday night. If they're to make Western Mass., they have no choice.

"No one ever sat back," he said. "They attacked and were aggressive, as we were hoping they were going to be."

To reach Matthew Sprague:
or (413) 496-6254.
On Twitter: @EagleSportsZone.


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