The Pilgrim hockey team would have liked to come away with a victory during Sunday’s match-up with Prout in the Hap Matthews Game at the Andrew J. Gauthier Festival.
But playing the Division II-South-leading Crusaders to a 3-2 loss in a game that could have gone either way wasn’t the worst outcome either. It wasn’t a win, but it was just a non-league game, and it re-affirmed the Pats’ belief that they should have no problem competing with all of the top teams in D-II.
“I think the game could have gone either way,” Pilgrim head coach Dave Tober said. “We had plenty of opportunities. A couple sticks down in front of the net, maybe we pop a couple more. But overall I thought it was a well-played game.”
By virtue of the victory, Prout claimed the Hap Matthews Cup in the final game of Sunday’s festival.
The back-and-forth game was a fitting ending to what had been a full day of strong hockey.
“I make sure that these guys know what today is about,” Tober said. “The whole day is a special day for the Gauthier family, for those who were associated with Andy and his family. My guys know what that’s about, and how privileged we are to be playing here and having the ability to get up and go play hockey every day.”
On the heels of a dominant second period, the Crusaders carried a 2-1 lead into the third period.
Pilgrim, though, came out hot, controlling play for the first few minutes until it knotted the game at two.
With 13:51 left, Nick McGuirl stole the puck in Prout’s zone and scored on a wrist shot from the left circle for the equalizer.
“I thought they owned the second period,” Tober said. “They took it to us for the better part of the second period. I like the way we played in the third. We came after them. It was much better.”
The game remained tied, with Pilgrim unable to gain the upper hand despite 13 shots in the period. Finally, with 3:33 remaining, Prout got the break it needed to re-take control.
Pilgrim goaltender Devon Gamba played the puck behind his own net, but when he tried to send it away it took a strange hop and ended up on the stick of Prout’s Connor Hagerty right in front.
Hagerty knocked the puck in to the open goal before Gamba could get in front for the eventual game-winner.
“He came out, he was aggressive and the puck took a different bounce and popped out to the guy,” Tober said. “I’ve seen it a million times. You can’t fault him, the puck took a bounce. He wanted to be aggressive. Those things happen.”
The Pats put together a good rush over the last three minutes, but goalie Brandon Hayes turned their shots away before the buzzer sounded.
“We did have 13 shots in the period, so I’ll take that,” Tober said. “I would have just liked to put one more in.”
Prout got the scoring started in the first period when Brent Bazinet scooped up a rebound to the right of Gamba and flipped it off the goaltender and into the net for the 1-0 lead 1:42 into the game.
Then, at the 6:26 mark, Pilgrim picked up a power play and held possession in Prout’s end.
As the power play expired, Cody Weaver fired a shot on net from the blue line, and Dylan LeGarie was able to sweep in the rebound to tie the game.
Prout’s second goal came with 2:01 to play in the second, with Justin Mateus doing the honors off a pass from Andrew Horsfield.
“Up and down, one of the best teams we’ve played all year,” Tober said of Prout. “I’d put them right up there with Coventry. That’s a very good hockey team. They’re deep, they’re fast. They forecheck very well, play their system very well.”
The loss gave the Pats a 1-1 record for the weekend, as they beat Toll Gate the night before 6-2.
That improved Pilgrim to 6-2-1 in D-II-North, where its 14 points trail only Cumberland’s 16.
At this point in the season, Tober feels good about where his team stands.
“I feel better after last night,” he said on Sunday. “Last weekend wasn’t our best weekend. We lost on Saturday night and we were playing a hot Toll Gate team last night. We played very well. We beat them 6-2, and I thought we beat a good team last night. We played a full game. We literally played 45 minutes, and we need to do that.”
Pilgrim was scheduled to be back in action on Monday against PCD/Wheeler/St. Raphael, with the results unavailable at press time.
The Pats will then have another busy weekend, as they’ll host Ponaganset at Thayer on Friday at 6:30 p.m., before welcoming in Cumberland to Thayer on Saturday for a 9:30 p.m. game.