The only thing better than playing in the Saline-Pioneer Thanksgiving Eve hockey game is winning it.
Gordie Niethammer scored the hat trick and Brendan Murphy scored two goals and added an assist as Saline defeated Pioneer 6-5 Wednesday at the Ice Cube. Logan Dejanovich had three assists for the Hornets.
In the end, it was Collin Clark’s breakaway goal 7:19 into the third period that stood as the winner.
Goalie Justin Flanagan turned aside 19 of 24 shots. His best save game in the waning seconds of the second period after a Hornet turned over the puck in the slot.
Saline went 3-for-6 on the powerplay. They killed off three of five Pioneer power plays.
Pioneer opened the scoring 34 seconds into the game when Sam Chapman stepped around a Saline defenseman and beat Flanagan with a backhander.
The Hornets answered less than two minutes later on the power play when Brendan Murphy’s wrist-shot from the left face-off circle beat Charles Goetzke over the glove. Saline continued to press with the Niethammer-Dejanovich-Alex Birkle line creating pressure. Niethammer beat Goetzke with a wrist shot from the left face-off circle. Saline led 2-1.
Pioneer tied the game at two with a goal by Sam Millman.
The run-and-fun first period continued when Dejanovich skated up the right wing and got the attention of two defensemen. He dropped a pass to Niethammer, who skated up the middle and beat Goetzke between the legs for a 3-2 lead.
The second period began with Saline serving a major penalty for boarding. The Hornets went down two men after another penalty. The Hornets killed off the 5-on-3 but another penalty was assessed and Millman scored his second goal of the game to tie the score at 3.
Saline used the power play to regain the lead. Dejanovich sent a cross-ice pass to Murphy, who fanned on a one-timer. Murphy got the loose puck and passed to Niethammer in the right circle. Niethammer dragged the puck between circles to lose one defenseman and then fired a wicked backhander into the top corner to make it 4-3.
With Saline’s Matthew Brown in the box, Pioneer’s Millman scored his third goal of the game to tie the score at four.
The Hornets took the lead for good on a great individual effort by Murphy, who skated in from the point through traffic, cut in front of the net and waited for the goal to go down before he whipped it into the goal. Saline led 5-4 after Murphy’s power play goal.
In the third period Lozovoyy sprung Clark loose on a breakaway. Clark used his reach to shield the puck from the diving backchecker and then flipped to his backhand and slipped it past Goetzke to make it 6-4.
Chapman scored with 6 minutes to play for Pioneer.
1-0 Pioneer Chapman (Millman)
1-1 Saline Murphy (Wesche, Clark) PP
2-1 Saline Niethammer (Dejanovich, Birkle)
2-2 Pioneer Millman (Chapman)
3-2 Saline Niethammer (Dejanovich, Birkle)
3-3 Pioneer Millman (Roberts, Chapman) PP
4-3 Saline Niethammer (Dejanovich, Murphy) PP
4-4 Pioneer Millman (Roberts) PP
5-4 Saline Murphy (Lozovyy) PP
6-4 Saline Clark (Lozovyy, Klaassen)
6-5 Pioneer (Chapman, Mankowski)