Western Mass. III-A hockey: St. Joe upsets Chicopee, 5-3
WEST SPRINGFIELD -- It was a simple message that St. Joseph goaltender Andrew Leitch delivered to his team during the second intermission of the first game of the Western Mass. Division III-A hockey tournament with the score tied at 3: Just score one goal. I've got the goal covered.
Leitch held up his end of the bargain, then his teammates did the same.
Leitch made 21 of his 52 saves in the third period, and sophomore Dan Flynn scored the game-winning goal as the No. 6 Crusaders upset third-seeded Chicopee 5-3 on Tuesday night at the Olympia Ice Center.
"I told the team between periods, ‘I'll hold my end; you just score one goal and we'll get it done together,' " Leitch said. "We did it in the third period."
Flynn gathered a rebound on Derek Romejko's initial shot and put it past Pacers goalie Shane Denault with 1:21 remaining in regulation to give St. Joseph its first advantage since the first period.
"I thought that I wasn't doing very well to start the game and it was coming down to the end when we needed that goal," he said. "I saw the puck after Derek took the shot and it squirted out and I buried it. It came out right in front of the crease and I just dove and hoped it went in and it did."
Andrew Leitch then thwarted a last gasp effort with the extra attacker, and Eric Leitch added an empty-net goal with eight seconds remaining, sending the Crusaders to a semifinal matchup with No. 2 seed South Hadley on Monday.
"We're definitely excited and we've still got the pressure on. This game has been a confidence boost for us and we'll definitely be ready for that next game," Andrew Leitch said.
Leitch did everything including stand on his head to keep St. Joseph in the game, something the Crusader keeper said he anticipated going into the game.
"I didn't expect anything less for the shot total. I definitely saw that coming," he said.
While the Crusaders gave up 55 shots, they were also able to get off 37 of their own and were able to take advantage of big opportunities in critical times.
"We worked on it all season and at the beginning of our season we were getting those opportunities, but we weren't capitalizing on them," Andrew Leitch said. "But over the season we've gotten a lot better and a lot stronger at capitalizing and finishing the deal."
St. Joseph shocked Chicopee early in the game by scoring back-to-back goals within 23 seconds of each other to take a 2-0 lead just under five minutes into the first period.
Romejko scored the first goal, clanging the puck off the post and in on a feed from Mike Bloom. Bloom followed with a second opportunistic goal to push the lead to two.
"We said at the beginning of the game if we got a quick goal it would put them on their heals and make them worry a lot. It really gave us an advantage because we could settle down," he said.
Chicopee rebounded and scored its first goal of the game 23 second later, but Romejko potted his second goal when he was left alone in front of the crease and Bloom found him with a pass.
St. Joseph appeared to bump its lead to three 30 seconds into the second period as a host of Crusaders punched at the puck during a scrum in front of the Chicopee cage and slipped the puck over the goal line, but the officials negated the goal.
Chicopee then tied the game with two quick strikes at late in the middle period with goals by Devan Longtin and Brendan Baker with 3:44 and 2:13 remaining, respectively.
The Pacers put the pressure on in the third, but Leitch didn't crack, even when Baker split the defensemen and fired a shot from the slot that was gobbled up with slightly more than 3 minutes left in the game.
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