Bishop Hendricken junior Billy Palmer spent most of his Saturday in Wrentham, Mass., serving as an usher in his cousin’s wedding. But once the ceremony was over, while the rest of the wedding party was taking pictures, Palmer ducked out, made the trek back to Warwick and strapped on his pads for the Hendricken hockey team’s game against Mount St. Charles.
The Hawks were glad he came.
In a game where Mount carried the play and out-shot the Hawks 36-16, Palmer made the difference. He stopped 34 shots, several on golden opportunities, and he frustrated the Mounties all night. That performance set the stage for David Mitchell to deliver the game-winning goal late in the third period as the Hawks stayed undefeated with a 3-2 victory.
Palmer headed back to the wedding reception as a winner.
“I think we were pretty fortunate to get a win tonight, but having said that, we’ve got a great goaltender,” said Hendricken head coach Jim Creamer. “He covers up for a lot of mistakes. I can’t say enough about what he did, coming right from a wedding. I’m glad he showed up.”
Palmer was no stranger to a Mount onslaught. Last weekend, he faced 59 shots against the Mounties and stopped 56 of them as the Hawks won 6-3.
The numbers weren’t quite as high on Saturday, but the Mounties still put the pressure on. They carried the play for much of the first two periods and gave themselves plenty of chances to score.
“Mount was the better team for the first two periods,” Creamer said. “They completely out-worked us. And we knew that. We just sort of couldn’t get ourselves going. It wasn’t necessarily a lack of effort, it’s one of those things you can’t explain. They wanted to go; they just weren’t going.”
Despite Mount’s pressure, Hendricken actually scored first. Robbie Buehrer got loose on a breakaway with 9:52 left in the first and buried a shot for the 1-0 cushion. The Mounties finally answered with 2:54 left in the second period on a goal by Brandon Borges.
Every other time the Mounties threatened, though, Palmer was up to the task. The teams went to the break tied 1-1.
“I was just trying to keep my team in it,” Palmer said. “I knew we were going to come out in the third and score, just like we always do. They were there for me in the third, and I was there for them in the beginning of the game.”
The Hawks proved Palmer right in the third period, evening out the action and taking a 2-1 lead on a Paul Filippone power-play goal 3:29 into the period.
But it wasn’t all smooth sailing. With 4:59 left, Hendricken’s Steven Dumond picked up a penalty. Twenty-seven seconds later, Benjamin Handanyan ripped a shot from the blue line through traffic and into the net to tie the game.
Just 19 seconds later, though, Mount’s Steven Donahue was whistled for a hook, giving the Hawks their second power play of the period. They took advantage of this one, too, with Ed Markowski slipping a pass from the right circle to Mitchell, who pushed it inside the near post for the 3-2 lead. Buehrer also assisted.
“Our power play has really struggled early on so we’ve spent a lot of time on it,” Creamer said. “That goal we gave up – we gave them exactly what we wanted to give them. Our power play came right back and did a nice job to get that goal.”
The Mounties still had some time and again put the pressure on, but Palmer and the Hawks defense stood strong to seal the victory.
“The more shots I face, the easier it makes it,” Palmer said. “My team cleared the rebounds and had my back.”
And that was enough for a victory. The Hawks moved to 8-0-1, the best record in the league, but they know they need to keep getting better.
“The lesson is we need to play our game,” Creamer said. “We play a certain way, and we need all of our guys to do the right thing all the time. When everybody does the right thing for us, then the group does well. It has to be a group effort for us. We’re that type of team. We absolutely rely on everybody.”
The Hawks return to action Friday for an 8 p.m. game at Thayer Arena against Lincoln. They’ll play Moses Brown on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at Adelard Arena.