Nobody cares about the score at the end of the first period, and nobody cares about the score after the second. All that matters is when the clock ticks zero.
When the final buzzer sounded Saturday night at The Pond in Auburn, Shaker Heights beat Kenston, 4-2, in Red North action of the Greater Cleveland High School Hockey League.
While the visiting Red Raiders trailed the majority of the contest, they scored three goals in the third period, including two in the final seconds.
“We got on them right off the get-go in the first period,” Kenston head coach Eric Horschler said. “In the second period, we kind of got back on our heels and were just trying to protect the lead, which our guys knew they couldn’t do that. Once you fall back on your heels, it’s hard to dig yourself out of the corner.”
The Bombers took a 2-1 advantage in the first period off goals by junior assistant captain Ryan Herpy and senior forward Sam Johnson. Junior Mike Nero and sophomore Von Houk had the assists.
On Herpy’s net finder, he passed the puck to himself around a Raider defender while crossing the blue line in transition, and then he caught senior goaltender Grant Passell cheating to the top of the crease. Before his angle was denied, Herpy flung a lefty wrister past the keeper’s glove, far post.
“Well, (Herpy) dangled a couple of their players, and he made a beautiful goal,” Horschler said. “And then Sam (Johnson’s) goal was just hard work. It was a good effort on both of their parts.”
Johnson transferred to Kenston from Shaker Height two years ago, and so the game meant something a little extra to him, Horschler said.
“Those were the kids he grew up playing with in that organization,” Horschler said about Johnson. “For him, it’s a big rivalry week. That was his Chagrin Falls-Kenston game.”
After the first period, the Bombers’ penalties started to mount, again, as they spent 15 minutes in the box throughout the duration of the contest. The Raiders took seven minutes in penalties.
The whistles really slowed down Kenston’s offense, and, when the Bombers did get chances, they weren’t able to finish, Horschler said.
“Some of our guys took a couple of bonehead penalties,” the coach said. “In the second period, we just weren’t getting any offense. Our guys weren’t moving their feet. They were just kind of being lackadaisical and just relaxing to try to protect the lead. But it was still anybody’s game at that point.”
Clinging to a 2-1 advantage in the final period, Kenston gave up the equalizer with eight minutes to play. Then, with 2:15 to go, the Bombers took a penalty for roughing.
Making them pay, Shaker Heights scored on the power play for the 3-2 advantage with less than a minute to play. The Raiders then buried an empty-netter for the 4-2 final.
“In the last 20 or 30 seconds of the game, they scored two goals,” Horschler said.
“Again, we took undisciplined penalties, and we can’t do that,” he said. “We had an opportunity to go on a five-on-four power play for five minutes in the third period, but two of our guys took penalties. Instead of just keeping our mouths shut and letting the refs call the game, we gave them a four-on-three power play for two minutes of their five-minute penalty.
“That would have been nice to play with a man advantage for the entire five minutes. That’s a lot of time to be able to score a goal. But we gave that away.”
At the end of the night, Kenston junior goalie Kent Mack finished with 29 saves on 32 shots, while Passell had 25 saves for the Raiders.
The Bombers dropped to 14-8-2, including a 6-4-1 mark in the Red Division, while Shaker Heights improved to 12-9-5 with a 6-4 mark
Up next, Kenston will host Chagrin Falls (14-9-2) at 8:40 p.m. Friday at The Pond.
The Tigers’ head coach Jim Revak spent seven seasons as the head coach at Kenston, amassing a 128-66-8 record with the Bombers before resigning in 2011 because his job sent him traveling internationally.
When Horschler was a senior at Kenston in 2005, Revak was his coach.
“I coached with him for the Crusaders, which was a great opportunity for me,” Horschler said. “But I can’t let this rivalry down. I’m sure somewhere deep down in his heart, he still wants Kenston to win.”
Horschler paused for a little chuckle.
“Both of his sons went to Kenston,” Horschler said. “It should be fun. It’ll be a good game. We just have to prepare for it how we prepare for everybody else. We have to work hard, play hard, set our egos aside and hope for a win.”