HERSHEY — The Shamrocks looked to have control for most of the first two periods of Saturday afternoon’s CPIHL Rothrock Division Championship, but Cedar Crest made a push right before the second intermission.
The Falcons ended up just a split-second too late from tying a game that saw them trail by two 20 seconds prior. The players on the ice felt that the puck had crossed the goal line. It may have, but the buzzer sounded beforehand making it a moot point.
And it wasn’t the first play that they thought they had scored. Moments before the one that did count, the puck went where they wanted it but play stopped because the net was knocked off its moorings.
The Shamrocks were very lucky to be up one goal heading into Hersheypark Arena’s locker rooms for a 15-minute long second intermission despite the onslaught the Falcons gave them late.
“We didn’t feel like [Cedar Crest] had momentum,” Shamrocks coach A.J. Carr said. “They got the one near the end, but I don’t think that was a game-changer. We went into the locker room knowing it was going to be a long stretch. Not much changed. We didn’t have to change much. We wanted to play our game and we did.”
The Falcons, however, looked like they did have the momentum in the third period.
Goals by Brock Smith and Anthony Griffiths in the first four minutes gave them their first lead. It was the only one they needed as Cedar Crest defeated the Shamrocks 6-4 and were crowned Rothrock Division Champions.
The Shamrocks seemed to lose an edge in that third period. After giving up two quick goals and relinquishing the lead, the third seed couldn’t muster up the all important game-tying goal.
The game’s start was a much different story.
Jack Straub scored just more than a minute in to give the Shamrocks an early lead. He struck again six minutes later to retake the lead. Riley Johnson followed suit with his only goal of the game to extend the lead to 3-1.
“That first [goal], I’m sure you heard our bench,” Carr said of his player’s excited reaction. “That gets you into it. I don’t think we ever thought the game was in hand or we could let off the gas. We just kept going and going. That’s what we preach.
“You get up, keep going, you get down, keep going. Good things will go your way and they kept at it.”
The vast majority of the second frame went the Shamrocks’ way. Michael Soule scored to give them their second two-goal lead of the afternoon. They continued to control pace for most of the period.
“I think we came out a little flat and nervous that first period,” Cedar Crest coach Kerry Hartman said. “But all season, we’ve dug ourselves out of holes when we needed to. That third period, I made a change with switching some lines out. The first goal of that period set the tone.”
The Shamrocks couldn’t execute on the chances they got in the final period. Johnson had the first big opportunity with a breakaway 20 seconds in, but the Rothrock Division points leader missed the net and couldn’t give his team another two-goal lead.
They also couldn’t execute on a late power play when they were down one.
“It’s always tough to lose like that,” Johnson said. “We were playing hard in the first two periods and I guess we just ran out of gas and let up. Didn’t play as hard in the third period as we should’ve.”
HERSHEY — The Shamrocks will lose a decent chunk of their senior core — seven to be exact.
It’s not the way the Shamrocks wanted to end the season, but it’s an impressive run after having a rough outing in the first round that saw them lose by eight goals. They will be losing a number of seniors, but the future looks bright with players like Johnson and Straub coming back.
“We’ll have a young team,” Johnson said. “But we’ll definitely be a team to watch for.”
The Shamrocks’ Tony Reale was named the inaugural winner of the Justin Yingling Memorial Award. The award is named after former CPIHL coach, Yingling, who died last season.