In the final game of the 2022 UCBLL regular season and with the top seed in the playoffs on the line, the Hawkeyes hung on by a 12-11 score to defeat the Armory at Blue Cross Arena on Wednesday night.
With star player Casey McDermott missing from the lineup due to an injury, the Armory’s Luke Pilcher (3+1) has been filling the void. Mark Belles (3+1) and Tyler Goode (2+2) had standout performances as they each chipped in four points apiece. Rioux Johnson (2+1) also had a multi-point effort while goaltender William Dempsey had another great performance in crease.
The Hawkeyes were led in scoring by Zach Terry (4+1) and Nick Miller (3+0) as they each turned in a hat trick. The Hawkeyes controlled the face-off circle with a trio of Rocco Santillo (1+0), Conner Fingar, and Patrick Mitchell (1+0). Netminder Kyle Meagher was between the pipes for the Hawkeyes.
The first quarter started out right away, with the Armory coming out firing with a goal from Belles as Goode provided the lone assist. Minutes later, the Hawkeyes found the equalizer as Colt Green (1+1) caught a rebound off the boards and made space for himself to put one behind Dempsey.
Green got another point just a minute later, assisting an outside lefty shot from Terry through the bottom corner. The Armory tied the score with Goode’s mark before Belles gave the Armory a 3-2 lead a minute afterwards. Although that was the last goal of the quarter, each team successfully killed off a pair of penalties in the final four minutes of the period.
The Hawkeyes came out firing on all cylinders in the second quarter, as Terry scored the first and third goals of a three-goal run over the first five minutes. Miller’s tally sandwiched between Terry’s goals was a dunk as he dove to plant the ball in the top left corner.
With eight minutes left in the quarter, Goode scored his second and drew a foul that created a power-play for the Armory. Belles finished his hat trick on the ensuing man-advantage, then added another just 11 seconds later to even the score at 5-5.
Miller scored his second goal of the contest while shorthanded a minute later to re-establish the Hawkeyes’ lead. The Armory countered back as Johnson scored his first, also a shorthanded goal, and a minute later Dylan Snow (1+0) slammed in a dunk from behind the goal to make it a 7-6 Hawkeyes’ lead at the half.
The third quarter was slow for the Hawkeyes, as it has been the case for the season, and the Armory took advantage when Belles and Johnson combined to tie the game in the first two minutes of the half.
Following the tie score, the Hawkeyes erupted to take a 11-7 lead as they went on a four-goal run with Matthew Blythe (1+1), Miller and Santillo all finding the back of the net.
The Hawkeyes asserted their dominance to close out the quarter to take a four-goal cushion going into the final quarter.
Pilcher kicked off the scoring for the Armory in the fourth, scoring a solo goal off a power-play, before Mitchell got free for a goal while shorthanded a minute later. Mitchell’s goal proved to be the Hawkeyes’ final tally of the night.
Pilcher scored his second of the quarter on another power-play with seven minutes left in the game to trim the deficit to three.
Two minutes later, Shane Roach (1+0) got on the board for the Armory, scoring from the right wing. A minute after that, Pilcher completed his hat trick with 4:32 left in the game, but the Hawkeyes hung on for the narrow 12-11 victory.
The Hawkeyes will face-off with the fourth seeded Buffaloes on Wednesday, July 27 at 6:00 p.m. at Blue Cross Arena while the Armory will host the Rapids at 8:00 p.m.