BREWER – A quick start and some outstanding goaltending down the stretch gave Brewer its first win streak in the Witches’ inaugural Class A hockey season.
Brewer scored twice in the first 7 1/2 minutes and goalie Pat Cowan stymied some prime Hampden Academy scoring chances as the Witches edged the Broncos 3-2 at H.O. Bouchard Arena Friday night.
“Pat Cowan received the game puck and deservedly so,” said coach Tim Kilroy after his Witches improved to 3-9 with their second straight win. “Because we’re a young team and make a lot of mistakes, it’s nice to have Pat back there as insurance.”
Cowan was one of the “good hands people” and a “piece of the rock” all rolled into one.
Cowan stopped 14 of 15 shots, saved Brewer’s bacon with a sprawling save in the opening minutes of the final period, and stopped two other shots that had Hampden fans cheering before they realized the puck hadn’t gone in the net.
With Brewer holding a 2-1 lead two minutes into the third period, Hampden wings Ted Oskarsson and Nick Bridges roared through a seam in the middle of Brewer’s defense for a two-on-none with only Cowan between them and the net.
Oskarsson fed a perfect pass from the left side to Bridges, who was just right of the front of the net. Bridges slapped it low toward the net and Cowan, who was to the left side, flashed to the right and made a sprawling save – catching the puck with his knee pad and covering it up with his stick.
“That was a phenomenal save. The kid made a beautiful shot, but Pat came up big and stuffed them,” Kilroy said. “They couldn’t have played that any better. That was the turnaround point, I think, in the game.”
It probably left the 2-7 Broncos wondering what they had to do to score a goal.
“I didn’t know what was happening. I just sprawled out and it happened to hit my pad and I covered it up. It was a little flukey,” Cowan admitted sheepishly.
Hampden had two more breakaways – one three minutes later that Cowan got his left skate on before covering it up with his stick and the other ending with a shot about two feet wide right.
“We knew we needed to go high on him and we didn’t get the puck up. He works well with his stick low,” said Hampden coach Bob Morin. “I just think we left too many rebounds sitting there loose and we didn’t roof it when we needed to.”
The Broncos also wasted golden opportunities going 0-for-3 on the power play. The Broncos had a two-man advantage in the final minute, but came up dry.
The Witches went 1-for-2 on the power play, scoring the game-winning goal on a power play with 4:19 left. Defenseman Andy Thomas’ shot rebounded out to Greg Pooler, who redirected it to left wing Jon Burnett on the right side and Burnett punched it through for his second goal.
Brewer outshot Hampden 11-3 in the first period while taking a 2-0 lead. Brian Ellis assisted on both goals by firing passes out from behind the net to a wide-open Josh Schwartz on the right side and a wide-open Burnett on the left.
Hampden answered with a Scott Tardiff goal in the second period. Brother Sean Tardiff scored to pull Hampden back within a goal with 3:51 left in the third.
Witches 3, Broncos 2
Hampden Academy 0 1 1 – 2 Brewer 2 0 1 – 3
First Period – 1. Brewer, Schwartz (Ellis) 3:59; 2. Brewer, Burnett (Ellis) 7:35; Penalties – Hampden, Rowland, hitting from behind (game disqualification), 10:54
Second Period – 3. Hampden, Sc. Tardif (Miller) 4:20; Penalties – Brewer, Cowie, hitting from behind, 7:53; Brewer, Burnett, slashing, 10:57
Third Period – 4. Brewer, Burnett (Thomas, Pooler) 10:41; 5. Hampden, Se. Tardiff (Yehle) 11:09; Penalties – Brewer, Saunders, hooking, 7:34; Hampden, Sc. Tardiff, holding, 10:10; Brewer, Burnett, slashing, 12:31
Shots on goal: Hampden 3-6-6-15; Brewer 11-6-5-22
Goaltenders: Hampden, Cataldo; Brewer, Cowan
Power-play opportunities: Hampden 0-3; Brewer 1-2
Attendance: 150 (est.)