In the annual Thanksgiving Eve rivalry game between Saline and Pioneer, the Pioneers were thankful for goalie Michael Leighton’s spot-on impersonation of a brick wall.
The Hornets fired 53 shots on Leighton but couldn’t find the back of the net.
Pioneer scored the game’s only goal when Sean Fitzgerald’s screen shot beat Griffin Granica on the powerplay in the second period.
“It was one of those nights. Some of our guys are going to have nightmares about the ones they didn’t bury. But credit their goalie. He was motivated, full of energy and he played well,” Saline coach Paul Fassbender said. “There’s nothing to hang our head about. We played well. We attacked the game well. We cleaned it up pretty well in front of our net.”
Despite the loss, Fassbender is seeing great improvement in a young team that’s still adjusting to the speed of the game.
“We have 14 or 15 new faces. After the first two games, some of the guys were talking to me about this being faster than they’ve played before. And I think we’ve taken huge steps over the last three games. Today we were much better controlling the puck and making nice plays through the neutral zone. And we’ve got five new defensemen. We did much better today,” Fassbender said.
Early in the first period, Connor Wright looked like he’d beaten the Pioneer goalie, but his wrist shot caught the inside of the post and came out the other side. Wright had a great chance in the second period when he skated over the blueline, stickhandled through a Pioneer defenseman and then got stick checked just as he was in alone on the Pioneer goalie.
Griffin Clark got more and more dangerous as the game went on, gaining the blueline with ease and skating into the slot to fire hard wrist shots that were turned away.
Saline went 0-for-5 on the powerplay, including the only two powerplays of the third period.
Keegan Bunting nearly scored during a third period scramble in front of the goal. He jammed at a loose puck which caught his skate as he spun around. The puck came to a rest two inches from the goal line, just beyond the skate of Leighton - but none of the Hornets knew where it was.
The Hornets are still looking for their first win. They return to action Dec. 4 at Bedford.
The Saline Post 3 Stars
Connor Wright - The co-captain was generated chance after chance for the Hornets, using speed and stickhandling to attack the defense
Griffin Clark - The smooth skating Clark got better as the game went on and by the third period was crossing the blueline and skating into the slot with possession with ease.
Griffin Granica - Granica wasn’t super busy - but he had to make a couple big saves early in the game when the Pioneers got behind the Saline defense.