BROOKLYN — Amherst was staring at defeat in the Baron Cup II championship game against Olmsted Falls on Sunday.
Then Jacob Kramer made the Bulldogs blink.
Kramer scored three goals in the third period, the game-winner coming on a penalty shot after a rarely called foul, to lift the Comets to a 5-4 win at the Brooklyn Recreation Center.
The win was the 20th straight for the 30-2 Comets, who are in just their second year after not fielding a team for four seasons due to a lack of numbers.
“It was an interesting position to be in,” Comets coach Steve Morris said. “We didn’t start very well after starting really well on Friday (in a 7-1 win over Benedictine). I think we found our legs in the middle of the second period and that’s when things started to work.”
The Bulldogs (15-11) came out strong, negating Amherst’s vaunted cycle offense en route to a 2-0 first-period lead. Brady Fitzpatrick and Max Kirth-Gruszczynski scored the goals for Falls, which led despite being outshot 12-4.
Amherst came to life in the second period, getting the cycle unlocked during a pair of power-play opportunities that paid off Nathan Harmych goals.
Harmych scored at 5:51 off assists from Kramer and Michael Giannuzzi and picked up a redirect goal at 1:09 when Tyler Waldecki hit a rocket from the blue line.
Falls still led 3-2 after two, however.
“We came out slow and had to pick it up,” said Harmych, a freshman. “In the power plays, we knew we needed goals to give us a chance. They didn’t come chase us as much and that really opened things up for us.”
But things didn’t look good for the Comets when Dom Conte put the Bulldogs up 4-2 just 32 seconds into the final 15 minutes of regulation.
That’s when Kramer went to work.
He started his third-period hat trick with a goal at 10:45 on an assist from Nathan Hudkinski and he tied the game at 4 just over a minute later, putting the puck past Angelo Hanson (16 saves) while falling to the ice at 9:39.
The game-winner came after an unusual penalty call on a Falls player for having his hand on the puck in the crease. That gave the Comets a penalty shot that Kramer buried low for the final margin.
“I had in my mind that I was going to go backhanded, but I panicked and went forehand,” Kramer said of his only penalty shot of the year. “I felt better with that and I was able to slide it under his pad.”
Olmsted Falls coach Zach Walczak wasn’t thrilled with the call.
“I hate to see the game decided on a penalty shot that I don’t think has been made once this year,” he said. “I hate to see it come down to a penalty shot. Hats off to them (Comets), they played a great game. We gave it our best and I thought we had them.”
Olmsted Falls put on a push the rest of the way, especially the final 1:40 when Hanson came out of the net to give the Bulldogs an extra skater against freshman goalie Brady Grove.
Grove (17 saves) came up big with a couple of stops as the defense helped keep the puck out of the net to preserve Amherst’s first Baron Cup title since the 2011-12 season.
“I was going nuts,” Grove said of the final minutes. “I just had to keep myself calm. Our defense is very solid. I have to trust them and they’ll trust me back. It’s been a really good feeling bringing hockey back to Amherst.”
Contact James Brady at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Amherst 5, Olmsted Falls 4
FIRST PERIOD: (OF) Brady Fitzpatrick (Jackson McMahan), 14:05, (OF) Max Kirth-Gruszczynski (Fitzpatrick, Dominic Conte), PP, 2:05. PENALTIES: (A) Michael Giannuzzi (2:00 high-sticking), 3:20.
SECOND PERIOD: (A) Nathan Harmych (Jacob Kramer, Giannuzzi), PP, 5:51, (OF) Fitzpatrick (Conte), 3:35, (A) Harmych (Tyler Waldecki, Kramer), PP, 1:09, PENALTIES: (OF) Mikey Kirth-Gruszczynski (2:00 unsportsmanlike), 6:15, (OF) Jacob Kerkay (2:00 interference), 2:36.
THIRD PERIOD: (OF) Conte (Max Kirth-Gruszczynski, Jacob Kerkay), 14:28, (A) Kramer (Nathan Hudzinski), 10:45, (A) Kramer (Jacob Fekete), 9:39, (A) Kramer (Penalty Shot), 7:58. PENALTIES: (OF) Conte (hand on the puck in the crease), 7:58.
Olmsted Falls 2 1 1 — 4
Amherst 0 2 3 — 5
Shots on goal: Olmsted Falls 21 (6-9-8), Amherst 28 (12-10-6). Goalies: (OF) Angelo Hanson (28 shots, 23 saves), (A) Brady Grove (21 shots, 17 saves). Power-play opportunities: Olmsted Falls 1-1, Amherst 2-2.
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