Jamestown, NY – Lead by Captain Eric Olson’s Gordie Howe hat trick (1 goal, 1 assist, 1 fight), the Jamestown Rebels (14-24-1-2) defeated the visiting Maryland Black Bears (16-16-7-0) by a final score of 5-3 on Friday, January 24th at the Northwest Arena.
Things got off to a hot start for the Rebels when forward Zach Brydges buried his second goal of the season just under 5 minutes into the opening period. Maryland pushed back, throwing 10 shots on goal in the 1st, but goaltender Noah West was there to shut the door to help Jamestown bring a 1-0 lead into the break. That early energy was certainly felt by the Rebels, and it carried into the rest of the game, especially from a physical standpoint, something Head Coach Joe Coombs was happy to see.
“It’s no fun getting hit,” said Coombs about his team’s physical play. “It makes the game harder for the opposition when you make them fight through checks. I liked our energy level; I didn’t like our details, but I liked our energy.”
The second period brought a furious pace to the game. Both teams played extremely fast and physical, with plenty of hard hits and post-whistle scrums. The aforementioned energy kept flowing for the Rebels, as Liam Hansson scored his sixth goal of the year at 5:33 of the 2nd to put the home team up 2-0. The Rebels would extend their lead to 3-0 on a goal by Janis Vizbelis nearly 9 minutes later, but not before Captain Eric Olson dropped the gloves with Black Bears defenseman Thomas Jarman mid-way through the period, giving Jamestown even more momentum leading to Vizbelis’ goal. Maryland found life before the second period came to a close, however, as defenseman Hampus Rydqvist put home a goal to cut the Jamestown lead to 3-1.
Third period action was as back-and-forth as it comes. Maryland’s Ethan Heidepriem got one past West at 5:10 of the period to bring the visitors within one. A minute and 23 seconds later, however, Olson stepped up big again to restore the two-goal lead for Jamestown, scoring his team-leading 14th goal of the season. Just over two minutes later, Maryland would answer again, as Reid Leibold struck to again bring the Black Bears within one goal of tying the game, trailing 4-3 with 11:07 to go. It was then lock-down time for West and the Rebels, who battled to fend off the Black Bears. Carter Korpi added the cushion with an empty net goal at 19:28 of the 3rd to make it 5-3 Rebels, the eventual final score.
With an assist on Korpi’s goal, his 10th of the year, Olson completed the Gordie Howe hat trick, finishing off a tremendous effort for the 20 year old captain.
“He’s our best player,” said Coombs regarding Olson. “He’s our captain for a reason. I know there’s an awful lot of pressure on him with the situation he’s in; he’s not a 50-goal guy, and we’re asking him some nights to be a 50-goal guy. The leadership is great, he’s a great kid, and somebody’s gonna’ get a heck of a player.”
Both Nick Siffringer and Ben Kuzma had two assists, while Spencer Cosway, Danny Magnuson, Liam Hansson and Tyler German added assists as well. Noah West stopped 31 of 34 shots to earn his 9th win of the year.
With the victory, the Rebels move 8 points behind the Black Bears for the fourth and final playoff spot in the East Division. Jamestown will face Maryland 7 more times following tonight, and while Coombs knows how important these points are to get, he still remains focused on taking it one step at a time.
“At the end of the day, it’s about our process of wanting to do the right things every day, so that when we’re under pressure, we don’t crack,” said Coombs. “I don’t believe there’s one game bigger than the other. I know where we’ve put ourselves, but at the same time, who we’re playing next Friday is not important. We’ll worry about tomorrow tomorrow and Monday on Monday.”