PITTSFIELD -- The Warriors may have won the game, but Crusaders goalie Andrew Leitch stole the show.
The senior netminder made highlight-reel saves time and again to keep his team in the game, and it nearly paid off. Derek Romejko brought the Crusaders within one on a power-play tally at 8 minutes, 33 seconds of the third period. St. Joe's earned another man-advantage with 3:50 left, but the Wahconah hockey team put its best defensive performance together to preserve a 3-2 Hennessy League win over St. Joseph's on Saturday night.
"Leitch played out of his mind," Wahconah coach Don Disbrow said.
By the time Romejko brought the Crusaders within a goal, Leitch had already made four outstanding saves in the period to keep it a two-goal game. After the goal, ge needed another three down the stretch to keep it a one-goal deficit.
Wahconah peppered him with 19 shots in the final period, and he stopped them all. He stuffed Ryan Ouimet with a left-pad save early in the period and with the glove with less than a minute to play.
"Just trying to stay square to the puck basically," Leitch said. "Sometimes I guess where [Ouimet's] going to put it. I know him pretty well, so I might know where he's going to go. Sometimes I'll stick my glove up there and it'll go in."
But Ouimet wasn't the only Warrior left staring at the ceiling. Leitch stoned Nick Montferret twice in two seconds from in tight earlier in the period. He finished the night with 38 saves, according to St. Joseph's stats.
"He's an unbelievable goalie, so obviously we know we're not just going to put the puck in the net like we do everyone else. He's probably the best goalie in Western Mass.," Montferret said. "What we're trying to do is make noise in front of the net, get tips, get redirects and try to move him side to side. As you can see moving side to side, he can stop those too."
Needless to say, Wahconah was forced to work hard for all three goals. The first was a gift. St. Joe's failed to clear the puck and it popped into the slot to Ouimet, who made a quick move to create space and quickly beat Leitch for a 1-0 lead. Eric Leitch tied the game before the period ran out when he poked a loose puck past Roger Stedman.
The period belonged to St. Joe's. The Crusaders came out and took the game to the Warriors, who looked like they had been off for 10 days.
"We came out pretty slow and they came out ready to play. They jumped all over us, and I think it's kind of unexpected," Montferret said. "Coach got us together between periods."
Montferret and Lane Grogan had second-period goals for Wahconah to take a 1-1 tie to a 3-1 lead. Grogan's, which came unassisted at the 7:54 mark, proved to be the game-winner.
The result couldn't change Disbrow's mind about how his team responded to the 10-day break.
"It was by far not our best game," he said. "If it's a loose puck, if it's up for grabs, they outworked us every time. That shouldn't happen. If that's an Agawam game, we lose 8-1.
"I think our practices need to get intense again."
By contrast, if Wahconah was facing any other goalie in the league, it would have won 8-1, even with a poor showing. Andrew Leitch kept his team in striking distance, something Disbrow knew he would.
"I wasn't really satisfied with my performance the first two periods," Leitch said. "Coming out into the third, I know I still have to be up. I know my ‘D' and my team relies on me. So they help me out, I help them out."
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