EAST ALTON — The East Alton-Wood River Oilers pulled off a last second goal to eliminate the Jerseyville Panthers with a 5-4 victory Thursday at the East Alton Ice Arena.
The Oilers carved out a two-game sweep against the Panthers in 1A Mississippi Valley Club Hockey Association (MVCHA) playoff action. EA-WR advances to face the Bethalto Eagles at 8:45 p.m. at EAIA in the 1A West Division finals.
Cole Ford secured the celebration for the Oilers in a game that looked like it was headed to overtime.
With just 39.3 seconds remaining, Ford scored to snap a 4-4 tie. Ford brought the puck down the ice and passed off to Seth Chester, who found Alec Revelle, who dished a drop-pass back to Ford. Ford then took the shot that eliminated the Panthers and moved the Oilers on to the next round.
It came on the heels of a goal by Chester that looked to be the game-winner, but was waved off for interfering with the goalie.
"We saw it coming," Chester said of the overturned goal. "It is what it is. I can't be too mad about it, we got the goal back in the end. Seeing Cole's goal go in, it was a great feeling. I know they were amped up, we were amped up. We need to think ahead to Bethalto now. We split games through the regular season. We lost the first time we played them, but we were missing guys that were still in football playoffs. Bethalto missed some guys when we won. It should be a good, tight series against them."
EA-WR head coach John Helmcamp admitted it was a little exhausting going back and forth, but in the end with the seesaw performance he was happy.
"We had really good spurts and other times where we backed off," Helmcamp said. "2-0 leads in hockey are hard because you get all the momentum, but then back off a little bit. You lose all that momentum when they get a goal. It's a hard swing and that happened to us twice tonight."
After both the Oilers and Panthers got off to a slow start in the first period, EA-WR ultimately netted two goals. Jerseyville kept it alive in the final minutes of the period with a goal to make it 2-1 in favor of the Oilers at the buzzer.
The Panthers found themselves a man short when senior Joe Watson was sent to the penalty box for hooking, allowing the Oilers to take advantage. EA-WR sophomore Jacob Vassos netted a powerplay goal at 3:16 off a rebound shot from the stick of Tyson Knight to make it 1-0. Senior Brett Gaines was also credited with an assist on the goal.
The Oilers didn't waste any time and allowed just 13-seconds to burn off the clock before Chester, a senior, took a pass from senior forward Revelle to make the score 2-0.
Jerseyville went on an offensive attack late in the first to get past Oiler goaltender Blake Stone. Neal Currie and Watson sent the puck to the front of the Oiler net to find Jarrick Lumma with just 2:35 left in the period. The Panthers were able to cut the Oilers lead in half to make the score 2-1 at the buzzer.
"We played a lot better this game than we did last game," Chester said. "Jerseyville came out ready to play this time. Once you win one game in a series like this, it's tough to make it two in a row. We had to come back and regroup a couple of times because they kept it close the whole game."
The Oilers came out quick in the second period as the senior defenseman Ford controlled the puck the full distance unassisted to bury it past Panther goaltender Gage Wendel at 11:51 of the second period.
EA-WR continued the pressure when Revelle and Gaines found Chester in front of the Jerseyville goal. Chester punched a rebound off the pads of Wendel to give the Oilers a 4-1 lead at 6:13.
The Panthers pounced with just 3:30 remaining in the second period as Currie passed the puck to Lumma for his second goal of the game, giving Jerseyville new life going into the third period down 4-2.
"At the start of the third period, I told the guys they have to play like it was their last 13 minutes," Jerseyville head coach John Criswell said. "I have eight seniors this year and we knew this could very well be the last time they played hockey in their high school career. Our guys did every thing that we asked of them and they kept fighting. We don't even have enough players to field two lines. They were tired, but some of our kids played two to three shifts before a rotation."
The Panthers came off the bench ready to challenge the Oilers in the third, scoring two unanswered goals to tie the game.
Watson squeezed the puck past Stone in the Oiler goal at 5:16, assisted by Lumma and Currie. Watson then came back for more when he buried the puck with less than three minutes remaining to tie the score at 4-4, assisted by Lumma and Currie again.
The Oilers called a timeout to regroup and returned to the ice fired up. The EA-WR forwards charged the Jerseyville goal with an offensive attack with 1:04 left on the clock. With a little too much ambition, the Oilers pushed Wendel deep into his goal as Chester shot the puck. The officials held a conference on the ice and determined the goal would be called back for goalie interference.
The Oilers put a halt to their celebration, but not for long. Ford's goal less than 30 seconds later made sure EA-WR got to celebrate and move on to the next round of the playoffs.
Helmcamp is pleased with the outcome of his teams efforts, but looks ahead to the next task at hand —the Eagles.
"Tonight was a thriller, that's for sure," Helmcamp said. "With the goal that got called back, we were given a good explanation and those two guys are good refs. The way they explained it and they way they saw it, it was a legit no-goal. I'm just thrilled with how our guys just went out and dominated that last minute. The series coming up with Bethalto next week could be a long series. The two times we've played them, the games were tight games. Bethalto is a good team. It's going to be a fun series."
The Eagles defeated the Marquette Catholic Explorers on Tuesday to line them up with the winner of the EA-WR-Jerseyville series. With the bracket set, the Eagles and the Oilers have a break until Tuesday at 8:45 p.m at the East Alton Ice Arena.
EA-WR 5, JERSEYVILLE 4
EA-WR: SOG 15 10 10 — 35
PENALTIES: 1 for 2 minutes
JERSEYVILLE: SOG 4 10 5 — 19
PENALTIES: 4 Penalties for 16 minutes/one 10-minute misconduct
3:16 — PP EA-WR Goal-Jacob Vassos, A-Brett Gaines, Tyson Knight
3:03 — EA-WR Goal-Seth Chester A-Alec Revelle
2:35 — Jerseyville Goal-Jarrick Lumma A-Neal Currie, Joe Watson
11:51 — EA-WR Goal-Cole Ford Unassisted
6:13 — EA-WR Goal-Seth Chester A-Brett Gaines, Alec Revelle
3:30 — Jerseyville Goal-Jarrick Lumma A-Neal Currie
39.3 — EA-WR Goal-Cole Ford A-Seth Chester, Alex Revelle