NEWARK, Del. — It was a rollercoaster of a game for the Avon Grove hockey team.
The Red Devils found themselves in just about every situation against Oxford Monday night at the Pond Ice Arena — losing, winning, winning big and watching it crumble in front of them.
In the end, though, Avon Grove pulled off the win in the final minutes of the game for a 9-8 victory.
“That was an up-and-down game,” said Avon Grove coach Chris Wooten. “It was a close battle by a couple of teams that really know each other. We have some trouble with discipline from time to time and we’re working on that.”
The discipline issues led directly to Oxford battling back in the game.
Though Avon Grove (8-6-0) was leading by four goals late in the second period, a double minor to Brendan Harman allowed Oxford’s Tyler Swick and Ethan Dreisbach to pull their team to within two.
Another Avon Grove penalty gave Zachary Balla the opportunity to score on the man advantage early into the third and give the Hornets momentum.
“We didn’t play disciplined,” Harman said. “We came out and took (Oxford) lightly, I guess, and they capitalized on it. We have to be more disciplined and we have to recover after those (power-play) goals because we can’t be down a man the whole game.”
Avon Grove found itself in a 2-0 hole just over halfway into the opening frame, but was able to bounce back with three goals in the span of 5:21.
From there, it was a back-and-forth battle over control of the game as Avon Grove would score, only to be answered by Oxford (4-7-1).
“We moved the puck well and we were getting a ton of shots, but (Ryan) Snowden is a really good goalie and it was tough to get it by him,” Harman said.
The Red Devils, on the back of Harman and Ryan Hassiepen, tallied four goals to take a commanding 8-4 lead, but that’s when they watched it disappear with the penalties and resulting goals.
After Balla’s power-play tally, Oxford captain Zackery Mullen scored his fourth goal of the night to rally his team back from the seemingly insurmountable deficit.
“Our group of kids is very resilient,” Wooten said. “We can be down on our luck, but we do have the ability to maintain composure. At the end of the day, we are dealing with high school players and at the end of the day, sometimes boys will be boys.”
Avon Grove never got down on itself after watching its lead disintegrate and it was Harman who redeemed his penalties with the game-winning goal with just over three minutes left in the game.
“Harman is a very intense player and highly-skilled player,” Wooten said. “We try to get him into a lot of situations because he knows how to play in a lot of those situations.”
The game may have been a rollercoaster ride, but it’s just a snippet of the rollercoaster season the team is also having as it moves into a new league from the DSHA.
“At the end of last year, after winning the DSHA championships, we decided, as an organization, we wanted to play against tougher competition,” Wooten said. “Nobody really likes to go into games and blow people out or just mercy-rule teams. In moving to West Chester, we got what we asked for and everybody is enjoying the season.”