WATERBURY — Skylar Platt’s hat trick for the Harwood boys hockey team wasn’t enough to fend off Gregor Vogel and St. Johnsbury during a 4-3 loss.
The Hilltoppers were too much for the Highlanders to handle during the annual Community Awareness Game on Saturday night.
“We’re a team that’s been fighting for wins,” St. Johnsbury coach Richard Emery said. “We’ve been telling the guys all season to keep working, and they’ve been getting better.”
Harwood opened the scoring when Platt, assisted by Finn O’Hara, fired the puck in the back of the Hilltoppers’ net at 10:23 of the first period. But St. Johnsbury didn’t let the Highlanders keep the lead for too long. When Harwood gave up a two-minute penalty with 2:03 left in the first, the Hilltoppers pounced on the power-play opportunity. Jeremy Reardon slotted the puck past Harwood goalie Connor Dalley with nine seconds left, and the game headed into the second period with the score tied at 1.
St. Johnsbury built a two-goal lead in the second period to grab even more momentum. Harwood had a chance to take the lead on a breakaway 3:57 into the period, but St. Johnsbury goalie Matthew Monaghan collected the puck when it strayed a little too far ahead of the Highlanders. It was all St. J for the rest of the period, as Harwood received a two-minute penalty 3:47 into the period. During the Hilltoppers’ power play, Vogel snagged a loose puck right next to the Harwood goal and smashed it into the back of the net, giving his team the lead. Vogel was assisted by Reardon and Nate Adams 9:30 into the second period.
Harwood committed another penalty and St. J cashed in on the chance to extend its lead. Adams, assisted by Alexander Gates, ripped a shot into the back of the net to give the Hilltoppers a 3-1 lead going into the third period. Harwood’s Dalley was switched out of goal for Liam Guyette near the end of the period.
“Our first line obviously got out there and put a lot of offense on them, and we played a good two-way game,” St. Johnsbury captain Alexander Gates said. “(We) had a lot of help down low in the defense. Keiran (Fletcher) and Nate (Adams) are our top two defenders.”
The final period was exciting as Harwood scrambled to make a comeback. St. Johnsbury started things off with a two-minute penalty nine seconds into the period, and not long after, Platt cut the deficit to one goal on a power play. St. Johnsbury answered right back, with Vogel scoring again 22 seconds later. Platt scored again at 6:52 of the final period, cutting St. Johnsbury’s lead to a single goal. But the Hilltoppers held on for the remainder of the game to clinch the victory.
“I think we all just really worked our butts off,” Vogel said. “It was a team effort. Our second line stepped up really big. I think a lot of people had written us off at the beginning of the season. We had a rough start, but we put in the work and I think we’re going to have a different second half of the season here.”
Harwood’s top defenders included Ollie Hammond, Tyson Sylvia and Jonathan O’Brien. St. Johnsbury’s defensive standouts were Nate Adams, Kieran Fletcher and Gehrig Beck.
“Harwood was an awesome opponent,” Emery said. “They played clean, hard hockey and we just ended up on the right side of it tonight.”
Dalley made 18 saves before being replaced by Guyette (30 saves). St. Johnsbury goalie Monaghan made 40 saves.
Harwood (6-5-3) will travel to play Colchester at 3:10 p.m. Monday. St. Johnsbury will host Northfield at 6 p.m. Wednesday.