A rivalry hockey clash of unbeatens was as exciting as advertised Thursday night at the Granite City Ice Arena.
With a packed house on hand, the Freeburg-Waterloo Raging Bulldogs edged the Columbia Ice Eagles, 2-1.
There was no scoring in the first period, as the two teams appeared to play it safe and wait for the other to flinch.
The game remained scoreless until Paul Malacarne shot one past Ice Eagles goalie Londyn Little at 4:46 of the second period to put the Raging Bulldogs up 1-0. Braden Fiscus was credited with the assist.
“The game was a defensive battle, as we figured it would be,” Raging Bulldogs head coach Scotty Roberts said. “We got the huge first goal from Paul Malacarne on a great feed from Braden Fiscus.”
But the true hero of the night was Freeburg-Waterloo goalie Trevor Smith. He stopped 34 of 35 shots in the game to continue his strong season between the pipes. Smith has a save percentage of .951 and goals against average of 1.43 this season.
“We got a huge game from Trevor Smith once again,” Roberts said.
Smith’s biggest save of the game was at 11:30 of the third period, as Columbia sharpshooter Sean Hofstetter fired one on net from point blank range.
A Columbia skater collided with Smith with seven minutes remaining, and play was stopped for several minutes as Smith remained down on the ice.
Raging Bulldogs fans erupted in applause when Smith got back on his feet and remained in the game.
Freeburg-Waterloo then killed off a critical five-on-three power play that gave the team added momentum.
“We got ourselves in some penalty trouble in the third and found ourselves on a five-on-three penalty kill,” Roberts said. “We killed that off with huge saves from Trevor Smith.”
Nathan Metz put the icing on the cake for the Raging Bulldogs with a goal at 3:43 on a nice pass from Frankie Libera.
“We got a quick two-on-one break and Nate Metz put us up 2-0,” Roberts said.
Columbia put together one last gasp, however, answering 30 seconds later with a goal from Hofstetter to make it a 2-1 game.
Another penalty was called against the Raging Bulldogs in the final minutes, but Smith and the Freeburg-Waterloo defense turned away Columbia’s final frantic attempt to tie the score.
Freeburg-Waterloo improved to 11-0-1 and alone in first place with the win. Columbia dropped to 10-1-2 with the loss.
The Raging Bulldogs face Highland on Tuesday and will take on Wood River on Thursday.
The Ice Eagles face Edwardsville on Tuesday and will tangle with Highland on Thursday.