FARMERS BRANCH – All it takes is one.
One mistake by Mansfield led to one goal by Midlothian and, in addition to 45 minutes of standout defense, the formula produced a 1-0 playoff-opening win that has the Panthers advancing.
Brent Jones teamed up with Doss Allen on a breakaway pass that allowed the speedster to get behind the Mansfield defense and beat the Tiger goalie for a shot almost 10 minutes into the match. It would be the lone goal of the game as both sides battened down defensively for a near stalemate.
But all it took was one and at that point Jones had it.
“We watched film a lot this weekend over at Trent Newman’s house. We knew his glove side was bad, so as soon as I got the 2-on-1 and he took away my passing lane I was, ‘All right, let’s shoot it and see what happens’ and it was able to go bar down,” Jones said.
The shot sparked a huge uproar from the near capacity crowd at the StarCenter in Farmers Branch as teammates rushed to Jones’ side for the celebration. Both schools had sizable student contingents show up to the game armed with Vuvuzulas and assorted noisemakers.
The cheering sections may have been loud but the Panther defense was louder.
Four days removed from beating the No. 2 Western Division team 3-0, Midlothian (15-6-1) posted its second straight shutout against the Tigers. In the regular season, Mansfield was second in the Varsity Silver League with 118 goals scored. The only team ahead of it was Western Division winner Keller at 141.
“We shut them out twice. I think that speaks for itself,” coach Ryan Pfeiffer said. “They can say what they want but two shutouts, six periods with no goals, you don’t see me smile very much during this process so you know what I’m thinking.”
The Tigers finished the game with an edge in shots on goal at 24-23 but never got many clean opportunities. Or much luck for that matter. The closest the team came to scoring was when a puck hit goalie Jimmy Case, who thought he had it covered but it trickled back to the ice and landed between his legs. Worried that moving his legs might send the puck over the line, Case froze and waited for his teammates’ assistance. The Panthers obliged by clearing the puck and preventing the would-be score. Case finished with 24 saves in 24 attempts, his second straight shutout against Mansfield and his fourth shutout of the season.
Allen prevented the next best opportunity when he defended a breakaway attempt by Mansfield with just under six minutes left in the game, poke checking the puck away at the last moment to save a shot on goal.
“The boys had a rough first period getting adjusted to what we expected out of them. We asked more out of them than we ever had and after the first period it was kind of smooth sailing,” Pfeiffer said. “We had some trouble in front but they were just hacking away too. You didn’t see any (set) plays and that’s kind of easy to defend. They needed a bounce, they weren’t making it happen.”
Pfeiffer points out the probability of beating a team within that short of a time span twice in convincing fashion is against all likely odds. Yet somehow, the Panthers made it happen.
Next up will be Western Division winner Keller, a team Midlothian is all-too-familiar with. On Feb. 24, Keller snapped Midlothian’s nine-game win streak with a come-from-behind 6-4 win to take the regular season series 2-1. The Panthers won the first game 3-2 back on Oct. 21 but lost the second battle 8-2 on Nov. 23.
To get where it wants to go, the team knows what it must go through.
“I think it means we mess around a little bit but when we need to get down to business we can get down to business,” Case said. “If we can do it back-to-back that just means we can take on harder teams and eventually get to state.”
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