By Matthew Bartow / WLD
The SEC rivalry contest between Dexter and Chelsea on the ice Saturday night had a little bit of everything: Overtime, post-whistle skirmishes, angry fans, and even an ejection. So, yeah, a typical hockey game between friendly neighbors.
When the dust settled, the wild, wacky game at Ann Arbor’s Veterans Memorial Park fittingly produced a fittingly 3-3 stalemate.
Dexter seemed to have the game locked up as Chelsea pulled its goalie, trailing by a goal with less than 2 minutes to play. Unfortunately for the Dreadnaughts, Chelsea wasn’t about to throw in the towel. Chelsea forward Gabe Vowles scored the tying goal out of a net-mouth scramble with 1:05 remaining in regulation, denying Dexter a crucial win.
Both teams had a power-play chance in overtime, but 8 minutes of sudden-death hockey produced plenty of pushing and shoving but no goals. Chelsea’s salvaging a tie keeps it one point ahead of Dexter in the SEC White standings, despite Dexter’s 4-1 win over the Bulldogs earlier in the season.
Dexter head coach Justin Young said that the Dreadnaughts failed to take advantage of several chances that could have put the game away.
“We played a decent third period, we just didn’t capitalize on a lot of chances and they tied the game late,” Young said. “They have a strong team like they always do; it’s always a good game, one way or another. We have a lot of respect for those guys and the way they compete.”
Dexter got off to a slow start in the game’s early minutes. Chelsea took advantage of a Dexter penalty, as Tyler Valik fired home a slap shot from the blue line, giving the Bulldogs a 1-0 lead barely less than 4 minutes into the game. Valik scored the lone goal in the period.
The Dreadnaughts only managed two shots in the period, and if not for some good saves by Dexter freshman goalie Caleb Kril, Dexter may have found itself in a much bigger hole.
“Kril’s a gamer; he’s been a rock for us,” Young said. “He’s without a doubt one of the best goaltenders in the league as a freshman. He’s in it to win it every single night he comes to the rink, and the boys really appreciate the effort and they play for him.”
The momentum took a turn in the second period as Dexter was able to generate scoring chances, eventually leading to a Chelsea penalty. The Dreadnaughts converted on the power play, as forward Joey Fracassi jammed the puck past Chelsea goalie Harrison Lantis in a mad scramble in front of the net, tying the game 1-1 with exactly 9 minutes remaining in the period.
That’s where controversy ensued. Lantis emerged from the play furious, seemingly arguing that he had been interfered with on the play. Pushing and shoving occurred as players from both teams came together in a skirmish, and Lantis was ejected from the game after he appeared to make contact with a referee.
Dexter was handed a golden opportunity as not only was Lantis assessed a 5-minute major penalty, his ejection forced Chelsea backup goaltender Ben Mitts into the game.
Dexter pounced, scoring twice on two-man advantages as Chelsea was also assessed two minor penalties during the duration of the major penalty, much to the ire of Chelsea supporters in attendance.
Nate Kniesteadt scored the first goal, knocking in a loose puck to give the Dreadnaughts the lead. Dylan Hutchinson deflected a point shot into the net, giving Dexter a 3-1 lead with 6:10 remaining in the second period.
Young said Dexter’s pressure in the second period turned the tables.
“We were able to make adjustments early in the second period and turn things around, tilting the ice the other direction,” Young said. “We put pressure on those guys, forced them to make mistakes, which gave us the lead going into the third period.”
Despite the extended power play time, Dexter only scored twice, and its lead was cut to 3-2 as Chelsea scored a pivotal goal late in the period.
“We chased their first goalie out of the game, we gotta make them pay more for that,” Young said.
Dexter is back in action Wednesday as it hosts Jackson Lumen Christi, who beat Dexter 4-1 on Jan. 3.