Another SHL game, another overtime period.
York and Saint Viator had to go to an extra frame to decide Saturday’s league game in Mt. Prospect, after regulation-play ended in a 2-2 tie. York managed to earn a road win when Nico Ptak buried a rebound of his own shot at the far post, after a pass across from the right side by Mike Anderson.
“(Anderson) did a little pump fake, held on to the puck, and showed unbelievable patience on that play,” York coach Matt Boeing said. “He found Nico Ptak open at the back door, he put it on net, and he hammered it home.”
It was Anderson’s second pivotal play of the game, after scoring the game’s first goal in the first period. That goal came despite York (3-2-0 in SHL play) being outshot 12-5 by Saint Viator (0-3-0) in the first period.
The host Lions came out in attack mode on Breast Cancer Awareness night on their home ice.
“They were really fired up and they were out-shooting us by a lot in the first period,” Anderson said. “But we put one in and then we were able to get the momentum going a little bit at the end of the first period. Then the boys just started working to get shots on net and that was our objective today, was just crashing net, and getting some dirty goals.”
The Lions posted a 12-5 edge in shots through 17 minutes, courtesy of a high-flying energy level on their home ice. But the reward of a goal never came.
“The effort was there early and that obviously gives you something to work with,” Saint Viator coach Tim Benz said. “If we’ve got guys working that hard, ultimately we’ll be in a good spot.
“But at the end of the day, we have to figure out ways to put the puck in net. I think we’ve outshot every team we’ve played. We need to get more of those greasy goals and get bodies to the net.”
Anderson’s goal came on a wraparound with 2:03 remaining in the first period. Anderson’s goal didn’t take a raucous Saint Viator crowd out of the game but it did provide some breathing room for York against a Saint Viator team playing with the wind in its sails.
“Number one, coming out to Saint Viator’s home rink, you know it's going to be a challenge,” Boeing said. “They came out unbelievable today. In the first period, they came out guns blazing and we had a ride out the wave, We had to match their intensity, get pucks in deep, and get back to doing the little things.
“About halfway through it second period, they started sending two or three guys on top of their blue line to try to generate some odd-man rushes. So we had to adjust our play a little bit to kind of adapt to what they were doing, It’s just a dogfight every game in this league. It was another battle tonight and we were just able to come out on top.”
Momentum seemed to shift early in the second period, when York went on the only power play of the game at the 13:14 mark. The Dukes didn’t score on the power play but they found their urgency.
Saint Viator still managed a 12-11 edge in second-period shots, but York had clearly arrived at the party.
“We’re just a relentless team and we’ve got a lot of heart,” York goalie Adam Kaczmarek said. “We know we can beat any team when we’re playing our hardest and we just have to go out there every game that way. I just thought we played a good overall game and never gave up; when they’d score, we’d get another one.”
The second period went scoreless but Saint Viator’s Nick Munao tied the game at 1-1 with 12:46 remaining in the third, on a Jack Kuffel assist. But York regained the lead roughly 30 seconds later when Eli Maurer fired from a tough angle on the left side and scored, on a feed from Daniel Costabile.
Six minutes later it was Kuffel stepping up again for Saint Viator. Kuffel fired a wrist shot from the point that stretched the back netting, knotting the score at 2-2 with 6:57 left to play in the game.
York’s Frank Rosa hit the deck to block a 2-on-1 shot attempt by Saint Viator’s Patrick Heneghan with 30 seconds remaining in the regulation, sending it to overtime where Anderson and Ptak secured York’s win.
“Once we calmed down tonight, we were able to play our game,” Anderson said. “I really like our speed. We’re probably one of the fastest teams in the SHL, and we just need to work on picking our heads up and moving the puck quicker.”
Anderson and fellow forward Nick Sanfilippo stood out in York’s attack on Saturday.
“(Anderson) is an absolute bulldog,” Boeing said. “He played great today. And Nicky SanFilippo was buzzing today. He’s the definition that it’s not the dog in the fight that counts, it’s the fight in the dog. He took a couple of tough cross-checks and got right back up.”
Saturday’s game featured two teams ranked among Illinois’ top ten teams in No. 8 York and No. 9 Saint Viator. Saint Viator may have yet to notch its first SHL win, but the Lions led New Trier 3-1 in the third period of their game on Oct. 1, and finished Saturday’s game with a 37-20 edge in shots against York. The Lions also edged York in shots 29-28 in a 3-0 York win on Sept. 30.
For the Lions moving forward, it might simply be a case of adding a bit of grit in the offensive zone.
“I’d like to see some of our guys that are supposed to be our go-to goal scorers, instead of just putting shots on from the outside, maybe drop the shoulder and try and get to the post,” Boeing said. “The goalies in this league are too good to be peppering their gloves from the outside. They’re going to save that 100 times out of 100.”
Kaczmarek embraced taking 37 shots Saturday and sees the Dukes taking some early-season strides.
“I like getting shots. It warms me up and it’s a lot better than only getting fifteen shots. It helps me stay in it,” Kaczmarek said. “Sometimes our system-work in practice doesn’t always translate into our games, so I think we can be a little bit more structured, but I think it’s coming together pretty well right now.”
With the color pink dominating the crowd and with the host Lions playing in jerseys highlighted in pink, Boeing also spoke to the weighty importance connected to that color on Saturday.
“Saint Viator always has a great crowd and today was a very special event — we're honored to be a part of breast cancer awareness,” Boeing said. “It’s important that these kids always understand that being able to play hockey, being able to go to school, being able to have food on the table — you know, you just have to take life day by day and enjoy the moments you’re given.”
Like many programs, Saint Viator’s program has been affected by breast cancer.
“The president of our club is a survivor and we currently have a couple of moms that are survivors,” Benz said. “We also have a couple of moms of current players that have passed in recent years. Any money raised goes towards the Breast Cancer Foundation, towards breast cancer research. So it’s a good event each year.”