Nashua South's Bryan Connell y(8) chases St. Thomas Aquinas' Michael Torr during the first period of their game at Conway Arena in Nashua Saturday. (MARK BOLTON/Union Leader)
NASHUA - St. Thomas of Dover fell behind 3-0 before mounting a comeback and earning a 3-3 tie with host Nashua South in NHIAA boys' hockey action at Conway Arena Saturday.
St. Thomas evened its record at 1-1-1 while South moved to 0-1-1.
"We played them hard until the end. It was a good game, not a lot of penalties," said South head coach Eric Momnie. "Just a good, solid high school hockey game."
South took a 1-0 lead with the only goal of the first period at 12:31. Steve Saucier won a faceoff in his own end, nudging the puck to Owen McNulty, who then sent Arya Saliany away down the right wing boards with a long breakout pass on a designed play. Saliany skated in alone on STA goalie Joe Benedetto and roofed a backhand shot glove-side.
The Panthers extended to a 2-0 lead at 5:26 of the second period on a power-play goal from McNulty. His shot from high on the left side hit a Saints defender in front of the net and deflected into the cage.
South pushed the lead to 3-0 at 8:31. Alkim Dato made a pass from deep on the left side across the top of the crease to Saliany in the slot for a one-timer to beat Benedetto before he could get across.
"We came out a little bit flat. We found ourselves in a hole and it took one (goal) to wake us up and start playing the way we should be playing," said St. Thomas coach Andrew Leach. "We turned it around after we popped that first one in."
That first Saints goal came at 9:58 of the second period. Luke Pepin's shot from the low left circle was stopped by South senior goalie A.J Bender, but the puck trickled through his pads and was then poked into the net by Niall Foster.
"We stopped playing our game and letting them skate more with the puck instead of taking the body," Momnie said. "They got one and you could tell once they got that one they got a little jump in their step and the momentum shifted."
St. Thomas pulled within a goal at 11:28 of the second period. Cam Vetter's shot from high on the right point slid through traffic and inside the far post as Bender did not appear to see it through the bodies.
The Saints tied the game at 2:15 of the third period. Zach Leavitt's pass from behind the net found Aaron Garrison in the slot for a one-timer blast to beat Bender glove-side.
St. Thomas continued to hold the edge in play in the third period and overtime, out-shooting South 8-0 in the extra session.
"We had our chances to win. Our guys didn't bury them when they could have, but that's the name of the game. Sometimes they go in, sometimes they don't," Leach said. "I liked the way we battled in the third and overtime. We should have played like that all three periods."
Bender was a big reason Nashua South was able to salvage the tie, making 37 saves in the game.
"A.J. is our senior captain goalie. That's what we need him to do day in and day out to give us a chance to win," Momnie said. "He's a solid kid and a smart kid. He's a phenomenal goalie. He's huge for us to have a chance to win. He kept us in it."