Playing without its leading scorer and head coach, the Freeburg-Waterloo Raging Bulldogs mustered just enough strength to edge the rival Columbia Ice Eagles on Thursday night, 3-2.
Nick Mumford, who leads the Raging Bulldogs in points this season with 13 goals and 13 assists, was ejected from last Tuesday’s 7-2 loss to Belleville, as was Freeburg-Waterloo head coach Scott Roberts.
That set the team at a disadvantage against a Columbia club eager to avenge a 2-0 loss to the Raging Bulldogs on Nov. 26.
After one period, the score was 0-0 despite Freeburg-Waterloo outshooting the Ice Eagles 16-7.
With just more than four minutes remaining in the second period, a defensive mishap led to a Columbia goal.
The Raging Bulldogs answered with 1:05 remaining in the second period to tie the game at 1-1.
Columbia nearly wasted a golden opportunity to take the lead early in the third period with a 5-on-3 power play, but finally cashed in with seven seconds left in the penalty to go up 2-2.
Again, Freeburg-Waterloo answered quickly to tie it at 2-2.
Then it was time for Paul Malacarne to shine. He beat the Columbia goalie from the right side, scoring in the upper left corner of the net to give the Raging Bulldogs a 3-2 lead.
Columbia was awarded a penalty shot, but Freeburg-Waterloo goalie Cole Davis turned it away.
“Cole came up with a huge penalty shot save to secure the victory for us,” Roberts said.
The Ice Eagles also had a power play for the final 1:25 of the game but were unable to tie it.
Freeburg-Waterloo maintained its hold on first place by improving to 12-2 on the season. Columbia dropped to third place behind Vianney with a record of 10-2.
“With Mumford out, we relied on other guys to fill the role on the top line and it worked out pretty well,” Roberts assessed. “Some guys were asked to play a lot of minutes last night. Logan Ganz, Nate Metz, Paul Malacarne and Jacob Dinkelman all played extra minutes to fill the role of Mumford being out.”
Roberts also gave credit to assistant coach John Rayfield for pressing the right buttons while serving as head coach.
“John Rayfield led the bench last night, as I was suspended as well,” Roberts said. “He made some great decisions, which led to the season sweep of Columbia.”
Freeburg-Waterloo battles Wood River in Granite City on Thursday night before taking on Granite City at Granite City on Monday.
Columbia battled Vianney on Monday and faces Highland on Thursday in O’Fallon before playing Belleville in East Alton on Monday.