Westminster senior forward Connor Dolan is 6-foot-3 and many times he is the biggest player on the ice when the Wildcats are playing. Suffice to say glad to have his big body making plays in the postseason.
Dolan scored a pair of goals, the first one the game-winner in the second period, and the Wildcats ripped open a close game with a three-goal flurry for a 5-2 victory in the final game of Mid-States Wickenheiser Cup playoff preliminary round pool play on Monday at Hardees Iceplex.
Westminster, the top seed in the Wickenheiser Cup bracket, (11-8-3) will begin a quarterfinal series this weekend.
“It was our work ethic from our goaltender out,” Westminster coach Michael Richards said. “We came back on the power play and tied it up and we never looked back.”
Fort Zumwalt East grabbed the lead late in the first period on a goal by Jacob Klaus with 3:09 left to go up 1-0.
Westminster answered with 12:54 to go in the second period on a goal from Harry Medler to tie it at 1-1.
Just 3 minutes, 10 seconds later, the Lions went back ahead as sophomore forward Ryan Taylor fired a shot past Westminster goalie Samuel Haupfear for a goal and a 2-1 lead.
East could have had a bigger lead just before that but Haupfear stopped Lions sharpshooter Robert Bross on a penalty shot to keep the score even.
“He [Haupfear] made a huge save early in the second period on the penalty shot and the game could have definitely gone to 3-1 and we could have been on our heels again, but he answered the bell,” Richards said.
Levi Wright brought the Wildcats even with a goal at 7:41 of the period.
At the 4:57 mark of the stanza, Dolan used his big body to light the lamp as he popped in a goal top shelf past Zumwalt East goalie Anthony Willis for a 3-2 Wildcats edge.
“i was just kind of in front of the net and the puck came out and I just held it and buried it,” Dolan said. “We had to get the momentum back and carry it out the rest of the game.”
The momentum shift from the lost penalty shot chance and the Dolan’s first goal took the air out of the Lion’s sails as their short bench began to struggle to keep up with the Wildcats speedy skaters and playmakers.
“I think when we missed the penalty shot that was a big turning point in the game,” Fort Zumwalt East coach Denny Klaesner said. “They started to get on a little bit of a roll and we took a couple of bad penalties late in he second and the next they are up 4-2.”
Westminster added another goal off a late rush to the the which made it with 3:55 to play in the second stanza and then in the third period Dolan finished off his big night with a goal in the final minute of play.
“That’s my job, to go to the net and get the trash,” Dolan quipped.
Zumwalt East, which was seeded eighth in the Wickenheiser bracket finished 11-4-7 but would have gladly traded a couple of regular season wins for a chance to move on in the tournament.
“It’s been a fun season and we’ve have a good year but we just ran into a buzz-saw,” Klaesner said.