As the final buzzer sounded at Lancaster Ice Rink late Wednesday night on Penn Manor's 5-4 Senior Night victory over Lampeter-Strasburg in the Central Pennsylvania Interscholastic Hockey League, a desperation Pioneers shot from center ice infiltrated the Comets' zone.
Defenseman Vincent Palmieri stood inside the blue line, tracked the rising shot with his eyes and, with a flick of the wrists that had delivered a goal and three assists earlier in the evening, deflected the volley into the corner, extinguishing the final opportunity and igniting the celebration for the Comets (7-5-1), who ice players from Penn Manor, Lancaster Catholic, Lancaster Country Day and Solanco.
"I wanted to deflect it," said Palmieri, a Lancaster Catholic senior. "I thought it would be kind of cool. It's, like, 'Nope. Not today. We're winning this game.'"
CPIHL FINAL: Penn Manor holds on for a 5-4 win over Lampeter-Strasburg. pic.twitter.com/EcKC66tN6O— Tim Gross (@TimGrossLNP) January 11, 2018
The Pioneers (5-6-0), with a roster composed of players from Lampeter-Strasburg, Conestoga Valley and Donegal, entered the game trailing Penn Manor by three points in the CPIHL's Rothrock Division standings with two games at hand. Wednesday marked the first of three regular-season matchups between the division and Lancaster County rivals, who meet in back-to-back games scheduled for Jan. 31 (9:15 p.m. at Lancaster Ice Rink) and Feb. 2 (8:35 p.m., Regency Sports Rink).
"We've got to play these guys two more times," said Penn Manor coach John Ricci. "It's going to be a lot of fun."
Palmieri helped Penn Manor pick up a round-one win with a pair of points in the third period. He broke a 3-3 tie when his centering pass found the skate of Pioneers goaltender Josh Griel, a Conestoga Valley sophomore, and deflected in for the go-ahead goal with 9:50 remaining.
"I was just looking to center it," Palmieri said, "to see if I could get it to one of my teammates. It ended up just being a really lucky shot."
Less than three minutes later, Palmieri slid the puck through the Pioneers' crease again, finding the tape of teammate Matt Gerace. The Lancaster Country Day junior punched in the goal to extend the Comets' lead to 5-3 with 6:51 reamaining.
GOAL, Penn Manor. Matthew Gerace , at the doorstep, punches in a free from Palmieri. Comets lead L-S, 5-3, with 6:51 left. pic.twitter.com/rKbFCr9FbJ— Tim Gross (@TimGrossLNP) January 11, 2018
Wednesday's Central Pennsylvania Interscholastic Hockey League slate saw a pair of Lancaster…
Palmieri, in his first season with the Comets, also assisted on goals by Solanco's Mason Simpkins and Penn Manor's Jack Kiely.
"He made a couple really nice pinpoint passes," Ricci said of Palmieri, "and that was the difference in the game."
Lampeter-Strasburg's David Lundy netted a hat trick, including the game's first goal that saw the senior block a shot in his own end, carry the puck through the neutral zone, swing to his right and whip a shot past Penn Manor goaltender Neil Mahapatra (27 saves) 4:36 into the game. Lundy's goal highlighted a loud, energetic opening burst from the Pioneers.
"It was some pent-up aggression from last year," said Pioneers coach Devyn Laser. "We were a young team last year, and they were a good team last year. We wanted to show them that we were competitive."
GOAL, Lampeter-Strasburg. David Lundy blocks a shot at one end before going coast to coast and picking a corner at the other to give the Pioneers a 1-0 lead over Penn Manor w/ 11:58 left in the 1st. pic.twitter.com/jVSs3VlP9o— Tim Gross (@TimGrossLNP) January 11, 2018
Lundy added an assist on a goal from Conestoga Valley's Logan Buch. At the other end a puck slid off his stick and slipped past Griel for a goal — credited to Penn Manor's Jake Jesberger — that gave the Comets a 2-1 lead with 1:17 remaining in the first period. The teams went to the final buzzer, and Palmieri's last-second deflection, without another lead for the Pioneers.
"We had two unfortunate bounces," Laser said. "Stuff like that happens. It's hockey. Sometimes, you get a good bounce. Sometimes, you get a bad one."