Keeping their "Kuhl"
Matt Kuhl(right) celebrates the overtime winner
After a very successful morning at the cancer run, Gettysburg had to get back to business as they had to travel to NJ to take on the defending champs of the conference, The College of New Jersey. Gettysburg was coming from a week off with their fall break while TCNJ just came off a very big week at the ACHA Showcase where they took on some good teams including beating Virginia Tech. Gettysburg knew the road to the conference championship begins with beating TCNJ and given their recent results at the Showcase and their defending champion status, the task would not be easy.
Last season Gettysburg had a "slug" fest with TCNJ on the scoreboard as they fell to TCNJ at home 9-7. But this was a new year with new blood up front, on the blue line and between the pipes. The one thing Gettysburg needed to do was be solid on the penalty kill as they gave up four powerplay goals to TCNJ in that contest.
After the anthem had played and the puck dropped Gburg came out flying. Getting most of the chances early Gettysburg had TCNJ on their heels. Minutes in, the Bullet's defenseman freshman Brad Bourne jumped in to the play and took it behind the net and dropped it to senior captain Niall Hines. Hines walked out front and lifted a wrist shot top shelf for the early one goal lead. Minutes later Gburg had the pressure on again and freshman Eric Miller let a hard wrist shot go from the point through traffic in front and sophomore Mike Berestecky deflected it over the blocker of the goalie for a nice two goal lead. Unfortunately minutes later a bad bounce from a Gburg shot ended up on the stick of the TCNJ leading scorer and he went in one-on-one with sophomore goalie Jon Lipshutz and was able to sneak one just underneath him and over the goal line. This unlucky goal proved to be deflating to the Bullets momentum as they had trouble the rest of the period. The penalty kill was tested but did perform well. With time winding down in the period Gettysburg did not clear the front of the net and TCNJ was able to put in a rebound tying it at two heading in to the second.
In the second period the Bullets started to get back on their game as they started generating more chances. Their penalty kill was tested even more in the second and like the first they were up to the task and found themselves on a powerplay of their own late in the period. On the powerplay Gburg was swarming and as the puck was passed out to sophomore Matt Kuhl, he let a quick wrister go and it generated a rebound out front to Hines who put it away for his second of the game. However Gburg's issue with protecting their lead persisted as off the next shift TCNJ drove down to the Gettysburg end and put one past Lipshutz tying the game once again. Gburg had some late chances as Bourne rang one off the crossbar and sophomore Bobby MacDonald ripped a slap shot off the post but the period would end knotted at three.
Gettysburg knew they would have to dig down deep to win this game. Both teams battled in the final frame neither wanting to give an inch. As the time ticked off the clock you could see the 6am start to the day was getting to the Bullets and they began to look tired. TCNJ tried to capitalize and finally with five minutes remaining they were able to sneak another goal past Lipshutz taking the late lead. Gburg now needed to take all that was left in the tank and leave it on the ice. Junior Garrett Flasinski did just that as off the ensuing shift he broke up the play dangled down the ice cut to the middle and slipped it past the goalie tying the game with four minutes remaining. In the final minutes Gburg was not on their game, looking fatigued, but they were able to fend off TCNJ and the period would end with the game tied meaning they would need to settle it in overtime.
With such an early start to the day, a long bus trip, and a tough 60 minutes of hockey would there be anything left in the tank for Gettysburg except determination and drive? But they had fought hard in this game and knew if they kept their heads and kept the pressure on TCNJ, they could beat the conference champions. Less than a minute in to overtime, Miller hit his defensive partner Kuhl with a pass and Kuhl poked it past one defender and found himself on a two-on-one with Anderson. Kuhl faked the pass got the defenseman and goalie to go down then roofed it past him winning the game for the Bullets.
In a day that started at six in the morning it ended on a perfect note. As one parent put it, "they gave back then gave it all!" Lipshutz did really well on the night saving the Bullets when they were fatigued and stopping 37 shots on the night.
In addition for this being a big win for coach Esser's Bullets, it also marked a milestone for him as this was his 100th win behind the bench for Gburg.
Gettysburg now remains undefeated in conference play and 5-1 on the season. They will need to keep it going next week as they face a big test in Princeton and Bucknell, both also undefeated. Thank you to all the fans who made the trip to NJ and a special thanks to Mr and Mrs. Fulenwider and Mr. and Mrs. Lipshutz for providing the food for the bus trip.