The momentum, generated by two solid periods of hockey, was slipping away and Southwestern/Maple Grove coach John Sitzenstatter knew it.
It's been a frustratingly common theme for his team in the first month of the season.
''We've had trouble holding leads in the third,'' Sitzenstatter said. ''It's been a world of trouble.''
Southwestern/Maple Grove’s Thomas Sirianno celebrates his first-period goal in Friday’s hockey victory over Maryvale. See additional photo at cu.post-journal.com.
P-J photo by Scott Kindberg
Southwestern/Maple Grove’s Joseph Gerace, left, battles for the puck with a Maryvale player Friday night. See additional photos at cu.post-journal.com.
P-J photo by Scott Kindberg
But then Thomas Gerace came to the rescue.
Gerace found the back of the net four minutes into the final period, the hosts regained a two-goal lead and they went on to down Maryvale, 6-3, in a Western New York Small Division game at the Jamestown Savings Bank Arena on Friday night.
The win improves Southwestern/Maple Grove's record to 1-2 in the division and 2-4 overall heading into today's 9 a.m. home contest against Alden.
While the play last night wasn't flawless - Maryvale rallied from deficits of 3-0 and 4-1 to pull within 4-3 with just under 14 minutes remaining - Sitzenstatter was still encouraged with the first league win of the young season.
Alex Carlson scored a pair of unassisted goals and had an assist, and Andrew Farnham, Thomas Sirianno and Bryce Moyer added one goal apiece in support of goalie Ben Richard. Meanwhile, Branden Decker and Ryan Schutte added two assists apiece, while Curtis Carlson and Nate Stephens each had one.
Southwestern/Maple Grove opened up an early lead, courtesy of three first-period goals. Farnham tallied the first on the power play at the 11:26 mark, assisted by Schutte. Five minutes later, Sirianno found the range on feeds from Decker and Curtis Carlson, and then Alex Carlson capped the period a little more than a minute later when he scored the first of his two unassisted goals.
''Alex Carlson dominates the game,'' Sitzenstatter said. ''He's a man out there. He's an offensive defenseman. No one can knock him off the puck, he can go end to end and he has a hard shot. He was going to play juniors in Canada and he was the last cut, so we were lucky to get him back.''
Maryvale closed the gap to 3-1 at the 15:55 mark of the second period, but Alex Carlson's second goal and Southwestern/Maple Grove's strong penalty kills gave it a 4-1 lead heading into the final 17 minutes.
''Penalty kills have been killing us,'' Sitzenstatter said. ''We played Meadville (Pa.), we lost 6-5 and we gave up four power-play goals, so we've been working on the penalty kill.''
The Erie County team put on some pressure to start the third period when it found the back of the net at the 15:27 and 13:39 marks. But Gerace's critical goal, assisted by Decker and Stephens, pushed the hosts' lead to 5-3, and, thanks to another strong penalty kill, they kept Maryvale from scoring the rest of the way.
Moyer's empty-net goal with 39 seconds remaining, off assists from Alex Carlson and Schutte, added an exclamation point to Southwestern/Maple Grove's first league win of the season.
Southwestern/Maple Grove will look to make it two wins in a row when it entertains Alden at 9 this morning in another WNY Small Division game. South Park will come to down for a 3 p.m. contest on Sunday.
''That's about as far ahead as we can look,'' Sitzenstatter said.