Lancaster goaltender Justin DiChristopher held off a late-surging Williamsville North team.
AMHERST - Lancaster Redskins forward Manny Manns scored an empty-net goal at the 14:54 mark of the third period, securing a 5-3 victory over the Williamsville North Spartans in a Western New York Varsity Hockey Federation matchup at the Northtowns Center at Amherst.
The Redskins (9-0-1) had a 4-0 lead at one point in the third period, but the Spartans (3-7) took the game down to the wire.
After scoring three third-period goals, the Spartans had a power-play opportunity – for which goaltender Matthew Ladd retreated to the bench – with less than two minutes remaining, but Manns derailed the would-be comeback with his third point of the contest.
“Don’t get me wrong, I’m proud of what the boys accomplished tonight,” said Redskins coach Kevin Miller. “But certainly the third period is not what we expected, and it’s something that we’ve reiterated, so we’re fortunate to have pulled it out.”
On Dec. 7, the Redskins led the St. Joseph’s Marauders, 4-1, in the third period – only to finish in a 5-5 tie. For the Redskins, Thursday’s meeting with the Spartans may have been a bit too close for comfort. Coming off the ice afterward, a few players could be heard comparing the two games.
“I thought that was the Joe’s game all over again,” one Redskins player said.
The Redskins opened the game’s scoring at the 9:29 mark of the first period, when defenseman Ryan Wheeler fired a low snap-shot through moderate traffic, beating Ladd on his blocker side. Manns and forward Jon Chavanne were credited with the assist.
Less than two minutes into the second period, Manns made a quick cut in front of the net, switched to his backhand and beat Ladd – who made 22 saves on the night – to his left for the second Redskins goal.
“Manny Manns is a special player for them,” said Spartans head coach Bob Rosen. “He’s very talented.”
The Redskins made it 3-0 at the 4:03 mark in the second period, when Austin Gallagher ripped a bouncing puck from the slot and to the back of the net. A little more than three minutes later, forward Travis Valvo scored a power-play goal, giving the Redskins a 4-0 lead.
The Spartans got on the board at the 3:24 mark of the third period, at which point forward Brad Bailey beat Redskins goaltender Justin DiChristopher, who finished with 30 saves. Less than three minutes later, forward Tyler Green stuffed in a loose puck, bringing the Spartans within a two-goal deficit. Forward Bryce Ferrell brought the Spartans within a goal of evening the score at the 11:50 mark of the third period.
“I think it’s definitely a game of momentum,” Miller said. “The first period was a good trade off, back and forth, and the second period we were able to capitalize and we had the momentum and were all over them. But certainly once they started putting the puck in the net in the third period, we were on our heels.”
The Spartans outshot the Redskins, 33-26.
Freelance sportswriter Charles Roberts covers the Western New York Varsity Hockey Federation for MetroWNY.com. Reach him at ChRobert3@aol.com or twitter.com/cHartleyRoberts.