By Josh Brown
Miami Valley Today
TROY — After an 8-0 loss to the Dayton Stealth Friday night, the Troy hockey team bounced back Saturday afternoon with one of its strongest showings of the whole season.
In the end, though, Findlay fought back in the final period to tie the score and forced the Troy defense to make a number of clutch plays in the final minute to preserve a 2-2 tie in the second game of the Miami Valley Freeze tournament Saturday at Hobart Arena. However, a loss Saturday night and another defeat on Sunday handed the Trojans a sixth-place finish in the tournament.
But even with the Trojans having a shorter-than-normal bench, with 10 of their normal 12 players available for the game, running out of gas wasn’t the reason for Troy giving up a two-goal lead in the third period. Findlay simply fought back.
“You’ve got to give the other team some credit, too. We’d carried the play, but we knew they weren’t going to roll over,” Troy coach Rick Szabo said. “I knew they’d come out in the third period with fresh legs. And they came out and scored pretty early — and that changed the game.
“It’s easy to play when things are going well. But we competed and didn’t give up.”
After Troy took a 2-0 lead with a pair of second-period goals, Findlay’s Vincent Atkins scored two in the third to even things up. His first came with 11:44 to play as he snuck in a redirect from the side of the net to cut the lead to 2-1, and then with 6:40 to go he jammed in a rebound in front to tie the score.
Troy then was called for a penalty with 3:48 to go but killed it off — with Kellen Glover nearly scoring a short-handed goal on a breakaway, only to be stopped by Findlay goalie Tim Whitehead. Still, with a minute to go, Findlay kept the heat on — but Troy goalie Kaden Mathes made a save on a shot by Atkins with 30 seconds on the clock, and Troy fought for the draw.
Mathes, Troy’s third goalie this season, was solid all day, stopping a number of odd-man break opportunities by Findlay throughout the first two periods and finishing with 15 saves.
“He played well today, and it’s still a learning process with him, too,” Szabo said. “He’s learning, and he’s got to challenge the shooter. And late in the game, he did, and it helped us.”
Those breakaways were Findlay’s only chances throughout the first two periods as Troy controlled play, keeping the puck in its offensive zone the majority of the game. And after a scoreless first period, the Trojans broke through with 13:02 remaining in the second as Caden Lombardo sent a slapshot in from the point. Gaven Burris and Kellen King both had rebound tries, but Cameron Lombardo finally jammed it home to give Troy a 1-0 lead, with Burris and King each tallying an assist.
And with 9:48 left in the second, defenseman Zak Uhlenbrock took a pass from Burris and flipped in a floating shot from the blue line on the right side, with the puck sailing over the goalie’s shoulder and in to give Troy a 2-0 lead.
“That’s the way we’re going to have to score goals is put the puck on the net and grind it around the net,” Szabo said. “Especially being young, we’ve got to put it on the net, look for rebounds and screen shots. The first goal was like that, and the second one was just a good shot from the blue line.
“This was, overall, our most consistent game for three periods. They didn’t quit, and they’re competing.”
To finish the tournament, though, the Trojans were defeated by Beavercreek Saturday night, setting up a rematch with Findlay in the consolation round of the tournament finals on Sunday. There, Findlay scored a 5-0 victory over the Trojans, knocking Troy to 1-10-2 on the season.
Contact Josh Brown at email@example.com, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.
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