OFFENSE BOUNCES BACK IN WIN OVER DASHERS

By Jared Tennant

PHOTO: Dee Hannum

Mentor, OH – When Delaware Thunder netminder Aaron Taylor stood on his head en route to his team’s 3-2 victory over the host Mentor Ice Breakers on Saturday night, the Ice Breakers were visibly frustrated as they suffered their first loss on home ice. The team had the opportunity to rebound with a matinee contest against the Danville Dashers on Sunday afternoon and did just that, downing the Dashers by a 7-4 final on the back of another multi-goal performance from FPHL leading scorer Jon Buttitta.

The win moved the Ice Breakers to 7-2-0-0 on the young campaign, good for 21 points and second place in the Eastern Division. It’s a much different feeling than Mentor experienced last year at this point when it dropped the first six games of its inaugural season.

 “Going through what we did last year made us a lot hungrier for every point and every win,” said Ice Breakers forward Mark Essery, who dished out three assists in the contest. “It kind of helped us out in the long run.”

Danville looked to take control early when Mentor’s Zac McKenna took a hooking penalty at 2:59. It took only 21 seconds for Buttitta to use his impressive speed to create a breakaway chance before netting his league-leading third shorthanded goal of the year. The Dashers were able to recover and tie things up on the same power play with a rocket of a slapshot from Fred Hein to make the score 1-1.

With less than five minutes to go in the opening frame, it appeared as though the two clubs were destined to remain tied at the first intermission. However, the Ice Breakers unleashed a barrage of three goals, including two power-play tallies, within a span of 3:02. Nate Farrington scored on the man advantage before the Dashers were called for delay of game, sending Mentor back to the power play. Some textbook passing led to a backdoor finish by Steven Fowler to increase the Ice Breakers’ lead to 3-1.

Henry Berger completed the hot stretch at 18:55 with an even-strength goal, his second of the season. Danville responded early in the second frame with a tally by AJ Tesoriero, but just over a minute later Parker Moskal restored Mentor’s three-goal advantage by making it 5-2 with his fifth of the year.

The visiting Dashers, who faced a tough travel schedule having taken an overnight drive from Winston-Salem, North Carolina, fought back to crawl within a goal at 5-4 with goals by Jesse Neher and Tanner Hildebrandt, shifting the momentum in Danville’s favor.

With 54 seconds left in the second, a trio of second-year Ice Breakers teamed up to net Mentor’s sixth goal of the night. Farrington found the back of the net for the second time in the game with Alex Morrow and Essery being credited with assists, putting Mentor on top 6-4.

Danville had another chance to get back into the game with 1:18 of 5-on-3 power play time early in the third period, but Mentor successfully killed off the advantage before Buttitta sealed the win with his 12th goal exactly five minutes into the third frame. Other than some late scrums, the remainder of the period was relatively quiet as both teams failed to convert on power play opportunities.

Overall, Mentor out-shot Danville 40-37 despite the Dashers holding a 14-6 edge in the final period. Buttitta led all scorers with a 2-2-4 line while Farrington was close behind with a goal and two helpers. Parker Moskal notched a three-point outing (1-2-3) while Essery dished out three assists. In goal, Austyn Roudebush secured his FPHL-leading seventh win of the season with a 33-save performance. Mentor’s power play unit continued to impress, going 2 for 7 in the win.

On the Dashers side of things, leading scorer Hein had another solid performance with a goal and two helpers while Hildebrandt and Neher each chipped in with a goal and an assist. Backup netminder Harley White drew the start and allowed all seven goals, stopping 33 of 40 Mentor attempts. Danville converted on one of its six power play chances.

The Ice Breakers are back in action next weekend with a two-game series at home against the Port Huron Prowlers, wrapping up a stretch of four consecutive home games. Meanwhile, Danville will battle the Watertown Wolves in another tough matchup.