The new goalie stopped 28 shots in a 4-1 victory at the Ice Zone Sunday.
By TOM WILLIAMS
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
BOARDMAN -- After a five-month layoff that found him coaching girls hockey while waiting for an opportunity, Mahoning Valley Phantom Rockets goalie Ryan Davis said he can't see enough shots.
Sunday, Davis stopped 28 shots by the Brownstown Bombers, leading Mahoning Valley to a 4-1 victory in a Continental Elite Hockey League game at the Ice Zone.
"He's small, so he relies a lot on his reflexes," said Phantom Rockets coach Bob Hawthorne of Davis. "He reads the play well. A lot of guys try to beat him high, but he's got a good glove and quick feet."
Two weeks ago, the 21-year-old goalie who played for Traverse City last season wasn't playing because the Dayton Gems favored a younger prospect. A trade to the Rockets has revived his career.
"I was out for five months," said Davis, a victim of a numbers crunch because of a league rule limiting teams to six 21-year-olds, "so I'm really excited to be playing again."
Captain Mike Hanna, who scored the Rockets' first goal and set up Frankie Allen on the third, said Davis "has really impressed me since he's gotten here.
"He's really stepped it up in the net," Hanna said. "Ryan has brought a lot of leadership back there and that's a big thing for us right now."
Hanna scores first goal
Hanna's first-period goal on an assist from Justin Cassel gave the Rockets (12-27-0) a 1-0 lead.
"I picked the puck up in the corner and I saw an opening to the net. When the goalie [Kevin Bonikowski] went down, I slid it past him," Hanna said.
Sixty-seven seconds before the period ended, the Bombers (11-25-0) responded when Paul Hamlot hit a streaking Shane Jackman in the slot. Jackman deflected the puck past Davis for a 1-1 score.
After Paul Fonte put Mahoning Valley ahead 2-1, the Rockets had to skate off a seven-minute Bombers power play to preserve the lead.
"We played super well," Hawthorne said. "I think that was the best three periods of hockey that we've put together all year.
"The team just really pulled together," Hawthorne said of the lengthy disadvantage. "But no matter who I put out on that [penalty] kill, everyone seemed to do their job."
"In the second period, we ran into some penalty trouble," Hanna said. "We really pulled it together in the third, getting a lot of the little things right like getting the puck in deep and not getting too fancy with it. From start to finish, we controlled the game."
Third goal was key
Early in the third period, Hanna set up Allen with a pass to the point. Allen's shot eluded Bonikowski for the two-goal margin.
"That goal gave us a huge lift," Hawthorne said. "Any time you're struggling at 2-1 and have penalties to kill off, a bad bounce can tie the game and get the momentum. So that third goal was huge."
Late in the game, Steve Priete beat Bonikowski with a backhander in the slot.
"This was probably the first game all year we had more numbers [back] on defense than they had on offense," Hawthorne said. "When they would come down into our zone we [mostly] had four guys back in our zone, and that's what we've been stressing."
Davis said his most difficult save was his first.
"Usually, the first save is always the toughest because it's the one that gets you into the game," said Davis, who didn't face a shot for almost six minutes after the game started.
"I'm used to seeing a lot of shots because I played for TC last year," Davis said. "I like a lot of shots because it keeps me [focused on] the game."