A new rivalry has been born in the NEPA Scholastic Hockey League.
This round goes to the Back Mountain Blackhawks.
Back Mountain scored four goals in the third period for a 6-4 over Wilkes-Barre Area in the championship of the Casey Classic Dec. 30 at the Toyota SportsPlex.
Tunkhannock’s Brian Hannah and Logan Herbener, along with Zachary Jesse each scored two goals as the Blackhawks peppered 56 shots on goal.
Back Mountain, which defeated Wyoming Area in last year’s Classic championship, is also the defending NEPASHL champion.
“There were some big hits thrown in this one,” Jesse said. “There’s no doubt that this is a new rivalry. I think it’s going to be a good one.”
It was the third time in 10 days the two squads met on the ice. The two played to a 4-4 tie on Dec. 20 in league play, and Wilkes-Barre Area got the 3-2 victory on Friday in tournament pool play.
“Wilkes-Barre has a lot of talent on that bench, and they really played a tough game,” Back Mountain coach Barry Noss said. “When you play a team so many times in two weeks, you tend to bring out those rivalry moments, and today didn’t disappoint. Our boys knew they wanted to have a better showing today. This time, we were able to keep their shots away from our goalie.”
At times, it was testy with emotions boiling on the ice with numerous power plays in the third period for hooking and slashing.
But it was the constant pressure put on the Wolfpack back line that proved to be the difference-maker.
Back Mountain threw 16 shots at WBA goalie Ian Gartley in the third period alone. While Gartley was able to stop 50 shots, the Blackhawks managed to get four past him.
Tied at 2 after two periods, Wilkes-Barre Area took the lead just one minute into the third as Andrew Wallace’s one-timer from Cameron Krugel beat Back Mountain goalie Daymond Kovaly stick-side for the 3-2 lead.
That’s when Jesse took over.
Already with two assists, he got into the scoring act taking a pass from Daniel Noss at mid-ice and blasting a shot past Gartley knotting the match at 3. Not even a minute later, Jesse found the back of the net again, gobbling up a rebound off Sam Leandri’s shot and sneaking one past Gartley’s stick for the one-goal lead with 10 minutes left in regulation.
“It wasn’t a great feeling walking back in the locker room after losing 3-2 to them,” Jesse said. “We just weren’t going to stop, even when we were down. I really can’t describe the rush you get when you score a goal. You can’t beat it, there’s nothing better.”
Krugel’s unassisted power-play goal tied the score at 4 with eight minutes remaining. But back-to-back power-play goals from Herbener gave Back Mountain the victory.
“There’s no better feeling, especially when you can score in the Casey Classic,” Herbener said. “It felt good to get a little bit of revenge.”
WBA got the early edge when Krisjin Bilwin took a pass from Wallace on a two-on-one break and ripped the nylon for the 1-0 lead eight minutes in. Again, Back Mountain didn’t wait long to respond as Hannah rebounded a kick save off Jesse’s shot and beat Gartley low for the 1-1 tie after one period.
Both teams exchanged goals in the second on scores from WBA’s Krugel and Hannah’s second goal.
“Ian is a great goalie and a good kid. And he stopped a ton of shots tonight,” Noss said. “We just wanted to keep changing lines and keeping that next-man-up mentality. This tournament is so hard to win, but it’s even harder to defend the title. We had to run the gauntlet on this one.”
Jesse and Leandri each had two assists for Back Mountain. Krugel had two goals and one assists for WBA, and teammate Wallace added one goal and one assist.
The all-tournament team included Wyoming Seminary’s Tyler Kotowski, Wyoming Area’s Matt Romanowski, WBA’s Jake Ostrowski and Back Mountain’s Hannah, Leandri