The Freeburg-Waterloo Raging Bulldogs earned their first varsity win as a hockey club last Tuesday night, and it came in thrilling fashion against rival Columbia at the outdoor Granite City ice rink.
Down 3-0 late, the ‘Dogs stormed back with four goals in the third period — including the tying goal with one minute left and winning goal in the final second — to pull out an improbable 4-3 win.
Columbia’s Blake Bulger scored two goals in the first period, and Cody Early added a second period goal for the Eagles (1-5-1).
Adam Gauch started and ended the third period comeback for the Raging Bulldogs, notching his team’s first goal as well as the last-second game winner. Also scoring goals for the ‘Dogs were Scott Nanney and Austin Patton.
“Last Tuesday was really a very special night for our program,” Raging Bulldogs head coach Nick Dreyer said. “It was the kind of game people always talk about and movies are made about but are very rarely seen.”
Dreyer said his freshman goalie, Peyton Hamilton, was pretty upset with his play against Columbia, so he gave him a simple vote of confidence.
“I told him if he shut out the Eagles in the third we would score four goals and win this game,” Dreyer said. “I think some of the players heard it and took it upon themselves to really push forward and lay it on the line.”
The turning point for the miracle final period comeback, Dreyer said, was the physical play of senior captain Travis Bittle.
“Travis really is the heart and soul of the varsity team, along with our other two seniors (Nicholas) Harries and Gauch,” the coach said. “He is the kind of guy that plays with reckless abandon and fears nothing.”
The Raging Bulldogs pulled their goalie with a little over one minute to play, and Patton scored almost instantly to tie the game with 59 seconds left.
But Columbia dumped the puck into the Freeburg-Waterloo zone with less than 10 seconds to play.
“Most players would have given up on the play, but Harries wheeled out from behind the net and fired a pass up to Nanney breaking out of the zone. Nanney did what he had to do and sacrificed his body to make a play. He took a check to make the final pass up to our hero, Gauch, who broke in alone to score the winner,” Dreyer said.
Columbia head coach Kevin Feagan gave credit to the ‘Dogs for hanging tough.
“We knew (it) was not going to be an easy game for us. Once we got our lead, we kept stressing that we had to stay disciplined, stay out of the penalty box, and continue playing well defensively. Unfortunately, we were not able to keep it up for the full three periods,” Feagan said. “Hopefully, this can turn into a good rivalry in the coming years.”
Bulger is leading the Eagles in points with 7, while Kyle Eagan is the top goal-scorer with 4 heading into games against Highland and East Alton-Wood River this week.
The Raging Bulldogs followed their thrilling win with a 5-1 loss to Collinsville on Thursday. They were tied 1-1 heading into the third period, but couldn’t get over the hump.
On Monday, however, the ‘Dogs bounced back to defeat East Alton-Wood River, 5-4. Five different players notched goals: Bittle, Patton, Gauch, Nanney and Blake Maue.
The Raging Bulldogs brought their 2-5-1 record up against the 5-1-1 Edwardsville squad on Tuesday. Results were not available at press time.
“The team has really been getting better every time they touch the ice and I have a feeling we are about to start rattling off varsity wins,” Dreyer said of his bunch. “It’s a very exciting time for our program and the sky is the limit for this group of young kids.”