Its 1-4-1 record may not show it, but the Elizabethtown Area High School ice hockey club has played very well in the early part of the season. However, aside from the one victory, the Bears have been unable to finish down the stretch, and that showed in their most recent outing.
Elizabethtown fell 8-3 to Cedar Crest, the second-place team in the Viola Division of the CPIHL, in a game at Klick Lewis Arena in Palmyra on Friday, Nov. 22. The two sides were tied at 3-3 after two periods of play, but the Falcons caught fire in the third, scoring five goals to coast to the win.
“Our kids completely ran out of gas,” head coach Scott Cranston said. “I think they played their hearts out the first two periods, and we went toe to toe with them. (Cedar Crest) increased their speed, and their level of play went way up. We just didn’t have the legs, and then the walls caved in. I told them after the game it’s a long season and to not let one period get them down. I think we’ll bounce back.”
At first, it seemed like the Bears had the advantage. Austin DiPofi nabbed the first goal of the night on a breakaway just 51 seconds into the game. Midway through the first period, Elizabethtown went up 2-0 after Carter Lutter banked a terrific pass off the boards to Tyler Lawer for a short-handed goal. Isaac Long would score for Cedar Crest on the same power play shortly thereafter, but for the rest of the period, the Falcons were on the ropes.
“It was just team play,” Cranston said. “We had a lot of good passing. Both of our first two goals were off beautiful deliveries. The kids were really working together and clicking. We moved the puck really well. I think we caught them off guard.”
Riley Keppley tied the game early in the second for Cedar Crest off assists from Anthony Long and Aiden Tomecek before DiPofi hooked up with Lutter midway through the period to give Elizabethtown the lead back. It was the first goal of the season for the latter.
With just 32 seconds left before the third, Todd Griffiths tied it back up for the Falcons, who proceeded to dominate in the final period. Griffiths had two of the team’s five goals, with Tomecek contributing another. Anthony Long and Adam Allwein tacked on late scores to close things up as well.
“Cedar Crest is a very good team,” Cranston said. “They won a playoff game last year, and they have a lot of good travel players and quality depth. We just couldn’t keep up with them in the third period. Even though we’re a one-win team, I think we’re better than our record indicates. I think we’ll get a little better as our season goes along.”
Kaden Rhyder had a solid night in the net for the Bears, despite giving up 8 goals. He finished with 26 saves. He’s now at 166 for the season. Nolan Harner had 18 saves for Cedar Crest.
While Elizabethtown has lost three games in a row, they’ve come up against three of the top six Viola Divison teams, with Penn Manor and Dallastown being the other two. The Bears will have a chance to right the ship following the Thanksgiving break. They’ll host Annville-Cleona on Monday, Dec. 2, and Susquehannock on Wednesday, Dec. 4, followed by a trip to Twin Ponds East in Harrisburg on Monday, Dec. 9, to take on the Keystone Kraken.
“If we can get five out of six points in those three games after Thanksgiving, we’re literally right back in the playoff chase,” Cranston said. “We had a rough schedule, so when we start playing teams closer to our level, things will get better. Annville is still a good team, and we already tied Susquehannock, but I think we’ll be strong in the middle of the season.”