The Vikings dominated play after a fairly even first period, but despite outshooting the Panthers by a 38-19 margin the game wasn’t decided until the final buzzer sounded.
“We put a lot of shots on the net (40), but Plymouth is a very good team,” said Vikings coach Bill O’Neill. “Shots don’t mean a lot if you don’t put some of them in the net, and we were lucky to get a couple in the middle period because they came right back.”
The Vikings had three seconds remaining to kill off a penalty when the Panthers struck to make it a one-goal game. Mike Freitag picked up a loose puck in front of the Vikings net with goalie Ryan Sutliffe out of position and fired it into the empty right side of the net 57 seconds into the final frame.
“That power play goal changed everything, and the rest of the way we had to work hard to hold onto that one-goal lead,” said O’Neill. “I thought we did a good job moving the puck and getting decent forechecking going.”
The Vikings had a great chance to pick up an insurance goal with four minutes remaining when Brandon Platt’s pass across the crease just missed connecting with Chris Mastropietro. The Panthers called a timeout with two minutes remaining and tried to pull goalie Gordon Ceasar (37 saves) for an extra skater, but couldn’t do it until the final 53 seconds. Kristofer Faric had two good chances to knot it up, but one shot went over the net and the other was wide with seconds remaining.
“When they pulled the goalie for an extra man, we had to win the draw and did that a couple of times in our zone,” said O’Neill. “That was definitely a key to the win.”