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HOCKEY: Comeback falls short for Shrine in loss to Gabriel Richard

ROYAL OAK – The Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard Fighting Irish spoiled a third period comeback by the host Royal Oak Shrine Knights and claimed a 3-2 victory in Catholic League boys ice hockey play Friday night.

Dustin Dahm broke a 2-2 tie with 3:19 to play when he tipped in a pointed shot by Alexej Guberinich.

Dahm’s goal stymied a comeback by Royal Oak Shrine that saw the Knights come from 2-0 down early in the third period to tie the game.

The Knights got on the board with 11:44 to play when Michael Mann won a face-off deep in the Fighting Irish zone straight to Chris Bradley, and Bradley walked the puck between the circles before picking the corner with a hard wrist shot. The Knights tied the game with 4:55 left when freshman cam Eckert uncorked a slap shot from the top of left circle in transition that rocketed into the far corner to make it 2-2.

“Unfortunately, we waited to late to start to play,” Knights head coach A. J. Plaskey said. “We didn’t show up at all until the third period and a little spurt in the second period. We can’t come out and play like we did and expect to get a tie or a win out of it.”

Eckert’s goal prompted Fighting Irish coach Matthew Smith to use his timeout as a way to settle the team and break the momentum.

And it worked.

After giving up one odd man rush shortly after the time out, the Fighting Irish pinned down the Knights in their own end, got a few shots toward net with a screen in front, and were rewarded with Dahm’s game-winner.

“The timeout wasn’t for anything with X’s and O’s. It was all about stopping the momentum in the building and just letting our guys know that it’s a tie game and we still need to get one,” Smith said.

Gabriel Richard got off to a fast start, scoring on the game’s opening shift when Kellen Gove banged in the rebound during a two on one breakaway.

Early in the third period, the Fighting Irish extended their lead on a power play goal by Alex Opiteck with Dahm assisting on both goals.

“Dustin is someone we look to. He’s our captain, and he plays hard every night,” Smith said.

The game was physical from the outset with both teams hitting hard and battling along the boards for the puck, which sometimes created flow, and other times seemed to create a choppy, slow pace to the game.

“We always go back and forth with Royal Oak Shrine. They play physical, and we do too. That’s definitely part of the game,” Smith said. “Everybody was working hard and it’s an emotional game, so the boys play that way,” he added.

“It was physical. It’s a good rivalry, and two good teams in our league that know the games are important because we don’t have many chances to see each other. We only see each other twice, one at each rink,” Plaskey said. “The kids are up for it and they enjoy playing against teams like this.”

The battles weren’t just limited to the boards though as all three Fighting Irish goals came from in close, two on tip ins, and one on a rebound as Gabriel Richard created a lot of traffic in front of Shrine goaltender Steve Erwin. “We’ve been preaching all winter to crash the net. That’s definitely something we talk and we coach to do, and it’s been working out for us so far this year,” Smith said.

Erwin was Shrine’s best player on the night, finishing with 23 saves while battling to see the puck through the constant screens the Fighting Irish put in front of him. “Stevie played well. He keeps us in there, and he had some big timely saves,” Plaskey said.

Ryan Baron picked up the win for the Fighting Irish, making 24 saves in a solid effort.

With the win, Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard improves to 3-2 overall and 2-0 in the Catholic League. Next up for Gabriel Richard is a home date with Monroe St. Mary’s Catholic Central on Saturday.

Shrine falls to 3-3-1 overall and 2-1-1 in Catholic League play. The Knights host Madison Heights Bishop Foley in Catholic League action next Friday.

Last Updated: 12/13/2013 10:17:12 PM EST

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