Three third-period goals give Army 5-2 win over RMC
By CLAUDE SCILLEY
In a special hockey game, perhaps it was somehow fitting that special-teams play would determine the outcome.
Not only did the U.S. Military Academy Black Knights score on three consecutive power plays en route to their 5-2 win in 78th game of their historic series with Royal Military College. The game probably turned on two successive penalty kills by Army in the third period.
“Absolutely,” Army coach Brian Riley said, “because you know what? We haven’t killed many penalties this year. Our PK has not been very good.”
The game was tied 2-2 going into the third period and first Army took a penalty for too many men on the ice. Then, half a minute after Maurice Alvarez scored to give the visitors a 3-2 lead, the Knights were again penalized.
RMC failed to capitalize on either man-advantage opportunity against a team that has allowed opponents to score on 35 per cent of their power plays since Christmas.
“That’s one of the things that we talked about in the locker room after the second period,” Riley said. “ ‘We’re going to have to kill a couple of penalties (in the third period), so PK guys, you’re going to have to be difference makers.’
“That was probably the biggest part of the game for us, being able to kill those penalties.”
It was perplexing for Paladins coach Adam Shell that his team would allow West Point to score three times on the power play. Since Christmas, his team has killed 19 of 21 man-short situations — 13 of 14 versus ranked opponents in that time.
“The crazy thing is, we’ve been killing about 95 per cent (of our penalties) in the second half of the year,” he said, “but our penalty kill was abysmal tonight, at least in the second half of the game.
“They choked off our power play when we had some good chances,” Shell continued. “It gives (the other team) momentum when it gets a kill and it sort of crushes ours a little bit.”
RMC’s Eric Louis-Seize scored just 18 seconds into the game and RMC took that one-goal lead into the second period. “The good thing was we settled down and didn’t allow them to get that second goal,” Riley said.
Power-play goals three and a half minutes apart gave Army a 2-1 lead before the second period was eight minutes old and though RMC had spent most of that time in its own end, instead of spiralling out of control, the setback actually seemed to inspire the Paladins, who tied the game on a power-play goal by Jake Bullen at 11:05.
“Neither team has won a lot of games,” Riley said. “We’re both trying to learn how to win at this stage.”
The score stayed that way until the midway point of the third period, when Alvarez, the former Pembroke Lumber King, scored his second goal of the game. His deflected shot from the blue line was his third goal against RMC in the last two years.
As it turned out, by then RMC’s best scoring chance was behind it — Louis-Seize stole the puck on a forecheck and fed it to John Livingston, whose quick shot missed the net about four minutes into the period — and Army clinched the win with its third power-play goal, by Andrew O’Leary, with less than three minutes left to play.
Both coaches spoke of the emotion involved in the game.
“You can throw records out,” Riley said. “Regardless of what their record was or our record was coming into it, the emotion and the passion of this game is something that can override everything else. You could sense some of that during the course of the game, going back and forth.
“There’s a difference between emotion and intensity. Intensity is what you need every shift. Emotion is something that can come and go. We try to be an intense hockey team, because in this game you can’t necessarily rely on emotion. It isn’t going to carry you for 60 minutes.”
Shell said he was proud of his players, particularly of the way they responded after they fell behind in the second period.
“They emotionally got themselves back into the game,” he said. “I thought we were a little too emotional in the first and I tried to calm them down and that might have worked negatively in the first half of the (second) period. We were trying to play too relaxed and too controlled. Then we had a couple of good shifts, scored a power-play goal and we started to play with some jam.
‘It’s a credit to those guys. They figured it out on the bench. Sometimes we don’t get out of that. Against Queen’s the other night we didn’t do that. This time we did. That’s a good lesson for us.”
Garret Peterson and Luke Jenkins — into an empty net with 15 seconds left in the game — scored the other Army goals. Mac Lalor and Jonathan Gehrt each had two assists.
Making his second start for Army, freshman Parker Gahagen gained the goaltending win, as his teammates outshot RMC 37-18. Paladins goalie Evan DeViller, despite the defeat, was unquestionably the best player on the ice.
The win extends Army’s undefeated streak in the series to seven games (6-0-1). RMC hasn’t won a game since 2002 and has scored more than two goals in a game only once in that time. The victory gives the Knights a 42-29-7 lead in a series that dates to 1923, though RMC is still 17-15-6 in games played in Kingston.