PIHL Commissioner Ed Sam presented Westmont Hilltop coach Art McQuillan with a plaque commemorating his 500th win prior to Wednesday’s game at Cambria County War Memorial Arena.
No. 501 didn’t come easy.
Westmont put 60 shots on goal against rival Bishop McCort, but Crushers goaltender Boston Bradley stopped 58 of those.
Neither team scored through the first 46 minutes, 6 seconds. Then, the city squads combined for three goals over the final 4:54.
The Hilltoppers edged the Crushers, 2-1.
“The ice was tilted all night,” McQuillan said. “But (Bradley) was up to the challenge. They packed it around the crease. But, we finished when we had to.”
Westmont had previously defeated McCort 6-1 in the traditional Thanksgiving eve game at the War Memorial. Despite the lopsided final score, that game actually was a one-goal contest much of the way.
On Wednesday, Hilltop (7-4-2) controlled the tempo. The Crushers (1-10-0) somehow kept pace despite being outshot 60-7.
“We’re getting there,” McCort coach John Bradley said. “We’re a long way from where we need to be, but we worked hard for 51 minutes.
“We just couldn’t catch a bounce. The first (Westmont) goal goes off two or three people. Same thing on the second one. It gets tipped in front. We just need to find a way to get a couple more shots, but we’re going in the right direction.”
McCort had five first-period shots and grabbed some momentum while skating on two power plays. Westmont still posted a 21-5 advantage in shots.
The trend continued in the final two periods, with Westmont outshooting McCort 16-1 and 23-1, respectively.
“We carried the play to them,” McQuillan said. “The only time they seemed to be able to generate offense is when we put them on the power play. We took several ill-advised penalties, and we can’t do that.”
Each team scored once on the power play. McCort had five opportunities with the man advantage – two more than Westmont.
“It’s a learning process,” coach Bradley said. “We’ve got a lot of young guys, and a lot of these freshmen coming in and playing against these older kids right away, you can’t play in our zone as much as we did. Eventually it comes down to bounces.”
Westmont got the first big bounce. Lewis Buchkovich’s shot caromed off a body and into the air before crossing the goal line at 12:06 of the final period. Ian Campbell had an assist.
McCort’s Anthony Formica converted a power play only 1:28 later to tie the game at 1-all. Christopher Miller and Connor Bunn each had assists.
“We fought hard. We’re down one. We get the power play and make something happen,” coach Bradley said. “That was our only shot in the period. It goes in. All we need to do is get pucks to the net. Westmont did a good job. They’re a good team.”
Westmont got a late power play opportunity. Adam McQuillan scored at 15:05, with an assist by Brandon Leech.
“Coach Lamison has done a good job with the power play, and it came through when we needed it,” Coach McQuillan said of the game-winner. “We called the time out at the right time. We got it set up and got the puck to the net. We got a little bit of a redirection or a deflection. It ended up in the back of the net. We’ll take it and move on.”
Bradley appreciated the pregame ceremony commemorating McQuillan’s 500th win on Dec. 20 at South Park.
“It’s a testament to Artie,” Bradley said. “To be that long at one place, people don’t realize the time and effort that these coaches put in away from their family.
“We’ve been fortunate enough to have (former McCort coach) Galen Head, probably the best coach around this area, and Art with 500 wins – certainly a great feat. I’ve been fortunate to see both of those guys at work. It’s a testament that people take the time and work with these kids.”