EULESS – After last week’s narrow loss against West Division leader Keller, the Midlothian hockey team talked about making a statement that it would not back down from any battle with the playoffs approaching. On Thursday, the Panthers added an exclamation point.
Using stout defensive pressure and opportunistic offense, Midlothian rolled to a 3-0 win over the No. 2 team from the West Division to close out the regular season.
“We preached defense, we played defense and we can’t be any more happy with what happened right?” coach Ryan Pfeiffer said.
Both teams played relentless defense early on as the first period ended in a 0-0 tie. In that first period, the Panthers got off 12 shots while limiting the Tigers to just seven. That trend continued in the second period only this time the shots resulted in goals.
Senior Blake Parker broke the deadlock when he took a Tanner Dickerson pass from center ice and outraced the Mansfield defense for a quick shot that found its way into the back of the net.
The shot seemed to ignite the Panthers while demoralizing the Tigers. Any chance of a pick-me-up went by the wayside just over two minutes later when Trent Newman turned a McClain Williamson assist into the team’s second goal of the period.
With the defense still going strong, the Tigers’ chances of a comeback were all but gone.
“They came out really hard and the first period was a 0-0 game. We came out in the second and came out hard, got two goals up on them. It was a definite game where the first team to score wins,” Parker said. “That second period we just came out and took it to them. That’s what won us the game right there.”
Midlothian added to its lead when Newman notched his second goal of the game off another Williamson pass just over five minutes into the third period.
That shot brought the bus load of Midlothian students decked out in body paint to a feverish pitch as the team put the finishing touches on one of the strongest late-season runs in league history.
Sitting at 4-5-1 after a 6-5 loss to McKinney back on Dec. 2, the Panthers (14-6-1) went on a nine-game win streak and won 11 of their last 12.
The lone loss came to that aforementioned Keller team last week after the team was up going into the fourth period.
Senior goalie Jimmy Case, the goalie for that game, rebounded from his performance then with a strong 24 save effort against the Tigers.
“I’d say tonight was redemption night,” Case said with a laugh. “It’s not too important as far as rankings go but it’s more important as a statement I’d say. Plus they’re our rivals and they’re probably going to be our first playoff game too.”
The Panthers were not sure of their first-round playoff opponent when leaving the rink Thursday night but all signs indicated it was going to be Mansfield yet again.
For Pfeiffer, that means good and bad for his team. Midlothian’s late success and emotional win to end the season are all good momentum builders but that’s not the most important element to his team.
“Momentum is important but confidence is something that’s earned not forced, not faked,” Pfeiffer said. “If we show up to the next game as confident as we were before this game started, then yes (the win was good). If we show up to the next game cocky, then absolutely not. We’re only digging ourselves a big hole and we’re going to fall right in.”
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