Butler preps for postseason play by defeating Pine-Richland, 4-2
MIDDLESEX TWP — Making the playoffs was not in doubt for Butler's hockey team.
But having lost five of their previous six games, the Golden Tornado were searching for momentum in Monday's regular-season finale against Pine-Richland.
Senior forward Dustin Davis scored two goals and added two assists as Butler upended the Rams 4-2 at Ice Connection.
A victory would have given the Rams (8-13-1) sole possession of the eighth and final playoff spot in Class AAA. They can still make the tournament, but now need help to get in.
“We thought this would be a playoff-type game,” said Butler coach Patrick Hammonds. “Pine-Richland needed this one and we had to come out and exceed that pace of play.”
Butler certainly had the upper hand early on, taking a 3-0 lead 13 minutes into the game. A goal from Marcus McCall was bookended by a pair from Davis. His second tally came after he caused a turnover just inside the Rams' blue line, then beat Pine-Richland goalie Isaac Stephen with 3:58 left in the first period.
Davis leads Butler (11-8-3) with 21 goals and 32 points on the season.
“Dustin has been a huge producer for us all season,” Hammonds said. “That's why he was an all-star.”
The Rams got on the board with Joey DiTullio's goal with 2:12 left in the opening period, but the reprieve was short-lived. Just 43 seconds later, Butler regained its 3-goal cushion thanks to a score from Christopher Martin.
The Tornado ended the first period with a 15-6 edge in shots on goal and a 4-1 lead to show for it.
“Our defensive coverage was excellent in the first period,” said Davis. “Offensively, we were able to work the puck down low and scored a few goals that way. This win was very important for us.”
“I give Butler credit,” said Pine-Richland coach Ryan Tessmer. “We made mistakes and they capitalized on them.”
Nick Hawkins scored a power-play goal for the Rams late in the second period, but Butler's special teams redeemed themselves in the third.
Pine-Richland was awarded a trio of power plays in a 10-minute span. Butler's defense responded by surrendering a combined four shots on goal during those six minutes of being shorthanded. Goalie Clay Bachman stopped the shots that did get through, ending the game with 26 saves.
“We had a little bit of trouble breaking the puck out there,” said Tessmer. “We couldn't get the power play set up like we wanted.”
“It was all about discipline,” said Hammonds. “We knew that Pine-Richland would get its chances. At that point, we had to rely on our goalie.”
Stephen stopped 21 shots for the Rams.