After two periods Wednesday night, Plymouth had a 19-9 edge in shots on goal and yet were stuck in a 1-1 tie with campus rival Canton at Arctic Edge Arena.
But Wildcats head coach Gerry Vento reminded his players to keep grinding, to find a way.
Thanks to a pair of dirty goals by senior forward Jake Silvester, Plymouth did just that, earning a 3-1 win over their KLAA South Division rival.
“I just told the boys things aren’t always going to go your way,” said Vento, recalling his message to the team between the second and third periods. “You’re going to outwork teams and outchance them and be in tight games, but you got to find a way to fight through it. I like the way they responded in the third.”
The Wildcats certainly did, outshooting the Chiefs 15-2 in the frame and 34-11 for the contest to improve to 2-0. Canton dropped to 0-2.
Plymouth peppered Canton senior goalie Isaac Salinas during a five-minute power play (the Chiefs received a major penalty for boarding) but had nothing to show for it until Silvester jammed in a loose puck with 47 seconds to go in the penalty.
“There was a scrum in front of the net, and I saw the puck loose,” said Silvester with a grin. “…I just pushed straight through and just hit the puck in. Just keep hammering” until the whistle sounds.
Vento noted that Silvester is a blue-chip, blue-collar type of player.
“Most of Jake’s goals this year are going to be ugly, that’s the kind of player he is,” Vento said. “He gets in tight on the crease, he bangs away, he takes the abuse.
“If you’re going to play in that area, in front of the crease like that, you’ve got to be willing to pay the price. And Jake is willing.”
Silvester then iced the victory when he caromed a puck from the side of the net off the back of Salinas’ leg.
Canton head coach Brad Barath lamented the major penalty, but thought the whistle could have been blown on the play before Silvester nudged the puck over the goal line.
“We were fired up 1-1 going into the third period,” Barath said. “But the five-minute penalty put us behind the 8-ball.
“We did a good job killing off four minutes and 30 seconds of it. But they banged in a goal that I thought the whistle should have been blown on. What are you going to do, it’s hockey.”
Plymouth got off to a quick 1-0 lead when sophomore forward Josh Weber buried a rebound, just 4:42 into the Thanksgiving Eve contest. Assisting on the tally were senior forward Alex Bump and sophomore forward Jack Chumley.
“Weber’s been great,” Vento said. “He was great in camp, he’s been great since the start of the season. He’s a smaller guy but he plays big, he’s always around the puck. His feet just never stop moving.”
That slim lead held until the final stages of the middle frame, largely because of stellar netminding by Salinas.
The netminder made several timely stops to keep the Chiefs close, snagging a point shot by senior defenseman Zack Wiener and turning aside an in-close bid by junior blueliner Zach Gallaher.
“He (Salinas) played very well,” Barath said. “He’s been in the program, he suffered injuries the over the last few years, hasn’t really been able to play hockey because of it.
“He’s healthy right now and he’s playing well. He’s very confident with his game, it helps him.”
There was a bit of good fortune too, as a blast taken by Plymouth junior defenseman Keaton Courtney hit the right post.
Canton then drew even at 1-all with 2:48 left when senior forward and captain Brian Oldani scored.
Senior center James Tucker rushed down the left wing and took a shot that Plymouth senior goalie Trevor McManus blocked. Crashing into the net-front area to chip the puck in was Oldani.
“They worked their butts off to get the puck in front of the net and bang in a rebound,” Barath said.
Unfortunately for the Chiefs, they could not get untracked during the final 17 minutes. Credit Plymouth’s proactive, persistent play for that.
“With all the newcomers we have, it was a great game,” Vento noted. “The Park games, the rivalry games are always tough to play. But you got to play them to figure it out. I thought they passed a pretty good test tonight.”