Antonio Diaz-Levya scored four goals and added an assist and Grant Ellis scored game winner as Saline defeated Dexter 6-5 in an overtime thriller at the Ice Cube Tuesday.
The Dreadnaughts had sent the game into overtime on a goal by Brian Tuzinowski with 1:21 to play.
Each team had a chance to score in overtime but it was the Hornets who struck 1:24 into the extra period. Ellis banged home a loose puck in the crease after good work by Owen Helber and Zach Mitchell behind the net. The Hornets poured off the bench to celebrate the victory.
Saline coach Drew Denzin was happy with his team's response to a rough loss to Ann Arbor Pioneer last week.
“I’m really proud of the team. This was exactly what we needed,” Denzin said. “Win or lose, our young team was going to learn a lot in a back-and-forth game tonight. But it means a lot for the team’s confidence to win this game after a couple tough losses.”
Saline (2-2) was outscored 13-0 in its last six periods of play coming into the game.
The Hornets had a tough time containing Dexter forwards Joe Bartlett and Blake Miller. Miller scored two goals and Bartlett had a goal and assist
“They’re the real deal. We knew that going in and we still had a hard time stopping them, “ Denzin said.
As good as they were, Diaz-Levya was better.
“I was proud of Antonio. I think he was a little snakebit coming into the game. His shot selection hasn’t always been the best. But tonight he hit the short side and the top shelf. It was open and he took it,” Denzin said. “I was very pleased.”
The Hornets played an effective and simple brand of hockey early in the game, dumping and chase and putting pucks on net. Dexter’s Ben Grover was whistled down for a cross check in front of the net. On the ensuing power play, Dino Tzavaras passed to Diaz Levya, who put a wrist shot past the Dexter goalie for a 1-0 lead. Adam Haas (1 goal, 3 assists) drew the second assist.
“I came out here tonight and I wanted to score. We’ve been in a slump and I thought we needed a goal to help us break out of it,” said Diaz-Levya, co-captain of the team.
Later in the period, Diaz-Levya scored another on the power play. Tyler Baker used his skate to hold the blue line and then fired a shot on goal. Diaz-Levya chipped in the loose puck in front of the net. Mike Phillips also drew an assist.
Early in the second, Dexter got on the board when Miller beat goalie Chris Krueger on the blocker side from the high slot.
Diaz-Levya got it right back. Racing down the right wing, he put wrist shot under the crossbar to make it 3-1. Haas and Mitchell each drew an assist. Not even a minute later, Barlett slipped one underneath Krueger to make it 3-2.
Saline extended its lead a few minutes later. Diaz-Levya’s shot hit the post. From the side of the net, Haas banged home the rebound to make it 4-2 at the 9:29 mark. Tzavaras drew an assist. Dexter added two more goals to tied the game before the end of the period. Miller scored a pretty goal on a partial breakaway after a Saline defenseman fell. Less than a minute later, Tristan Roject took a pass from Barlett to finish off a two-on-one.
After the seven-goal outburst in the second period, the teams settled down defensively.
Diaz-Levya gave Saline the lead at 7:33 of the period. He came streaking up the left wing and fended off the checker but couldn’t beat the Dexter keeper. The puck went into the corner and Diaz-Levya outworked the Dreadnaught defenseman. After a centering pass failed, Diaz-Levya regained the puck, spun around and whipped a backhander past the goalie for a 5-4 lead.
Saline’s penalty kill, which was top notch all night, killed off a five-on-three advantage late in the period. But with 1:21 left to play, Tuzinowski’s point shot beat Krueger on the blocker side to tie the game.
In overtime, Diaz-Levya had another golden opportunity but was stonewalled by goalie Zak Richards. Denzin was glad to see the Mitchell-Helber-Ellis sophomore line rewarded in overtime after a strong game.
“I told Zach (Mitchell) and his line they’d been working hard all night. They just couldn’t find the handle. So they deserved it,” Denzin said.
Krueger turned aside 31 of 36 shots.
“There might have been a couple he’d want back. But he played really well and made some big saves,” Denzin said.
Saline’s penalty kill was 4-for-4. Their powerplay was 2-for-6.
Tran Longmoore is a veteran community journalist. He is founder and owner of TheSalinePost.com. He is co-publisher of The Saline Post weekly newspaper. Email him at [email protected] or call him at 734-272-6294.