Comeback Attempt Slips Away from Dashers

By Nate Williamson

Danville, IL - Despite an average amount of shots on goal tallied, a high-scoring affair was in order when the Watertown Wolves and Danville Dashers finished their season series on Saturday night. A game that ended with 16 goals scored between the two sides would see Watertown come out on top, 9-7.

It was early and often scoring with Watertown taking an early 2-0 lead behind goals from Anton Kalinin (Tyler Prendergast, Yianni Liarakos), and Tim Santopaolo (George Holt, Cameron Dimmitt). Kalinin's goal was a true to form tic-tac passing exhibition on a 2-on-1 breakaway that left Matt Kaludis with not much to do but hope for a miss. Veteran Chris Affinati (Eric Masters, Fred Hein) lit the lamp for Danville's first goal as he scored on a backhand that left Watertown goalie Jared Rutledge nearly helpless. Levi Armstrong (Justin Brausen, Jared Henderson) netted the tying goal with 16:38 gone in the first period. Armstrong was ejected from the game following a major for checking from behind, and a game misconduct penalty for the brawl that resulted after. 

The Wolves would capitalize three times on that major, as Dimmit (Lane King, Tyler Gjurich), Kalinin (Prendergast, Kyle Powell), and Gjurich (King, Powell) scored on the power play opportunity, and the Dashers defense looked down and out. That feeling would get stronger when Prendergast (Kalinin, Rutledge) scored just as the Dashers got back to even strength. It was Affinati that provided the next spark when he and Justin Coachman got tangled in a fight that ended up being more of a wrestling match, with Affinati coming out on top of the pile. It provided just what the Dashers needed, and Brausen (Alex Basey) went on to get his 2nd point of the night, cutting the deficit to 6-3 at 6:46 of the second period. Henderson wasted no time trimming the lead even further, after finding a stretch pass from Nathan Campbell and firing home on Rutledge. Danville would have their second player of the night ejected after Basey dropped the gloves with King. Earlier on, King caused a stir in front of the Dashers bench when he exchanged words with the home side. Basey was tagged with a 10 minute game misconduct penalty, as well as 7 minutes total for instigating and fighting. Campbell (Daniel Martin, Brandon Contratto) found the back of the net just over a minute later to bring the home team within two, but Dimmit (Powell, King) fired back at 14:58. The final goal of the frame came when Martin (Dustin Henning, Brian Dunford) scored shorthanded on the assessed five minute major, after a Hein shot was narrowly stopped from crossing the goal line. The goal, scored with just 28 seconds left in the period, cut the Wolves' lead to 7-5.

Hein (Contratto) made up for the narrowly missed goal at just 1:15 into the third period to cut their deficit to 7-6. It wasn't long before the rising momentum of the Dashers offense caught up with the Wolves, and Brausen (Hein) scored to tie the game. Watertown struck back, however, increasing the unpredictability of the game when Gjurich (Powell, King) scored on some beautiful tic-tac passing. Gjurich, the FHL's 2nd leading scorer, increased his point total to 99 on the season, just two points behind league leader Dalton Jay. The goal took back the lead for Watertown, who remained in charge for the rest of the game. The dagger in favor of the Wolves was when Holt (Dimmit) beat Kaludis stick-side to ice the score at 9-7.

The 3 Stars for the Game were Anton Kalinin (2G, 1A), Justin Brausen (2G, 1A), and Tyler Gjurich (2G, 1A).

Watertown moves forward to take on the Prowlers in Port Huron on Sunday afternoon, while the Dashers have a matchup with the league leading Carolina Thunderbirds. The puck drops at 5:05 PM, and an autograph session will be held after the game.

Photo credit: LMB Studios