WEST DUNDEE – Everything was clicking along just fine for Crystal Lake South’s hockey team, which celebrated Senior Night with a three-goal first period and had matters in hand.
Then Libertyville rallied for three consecutive goals and threatened to spoil the festivities.
“Then we kind of relaxed, it’s a big party and the game’s over,” Gators coach Rich Perillo said.
South got back on track with a late second-period goal and added three more in the third period for a 7-3 victory in an Illinois High School Hockey League Mikita West Division game Sunday at the Leafs Ice Centre.
“We started really well, then in the second period we kind of relaxed because we had that lead,” said forward Austin Wiggerman, who had two goals and an assist in the first period. “We came out with more energy in the third period. In the locker room, we said, ‘We’re going to win.’ We came together as a team and finished hard.”
South is 20-9-4 overall and 13-4-1 for second place in the division. Libertyville fell to 6-8-5 in the division.
The key goal came with 4.8 seconds remaining in the second period when Matt Kinker knocked in a rebound for a 4-3 lead.
“Shane [Gustafson] passed to me and I shot off [goalie Nick Draths’] pad and it went to Matt,” said South forward Jake Bigos, the Mikita West scoring leader. “It definitely gave us momentum into the third period. They had the momentum before that in the second period.”
Peter Mateo, Matt Allen and Timmy LaRue added third-period goals for the Gators. Goalie Cory Wasilewski, who came in midway through the second period, stopped all 17 shots he faced, including two breakaways in the third period.
“It’s hard. It’s a lot of pressure [coming in cold],” Wasilewski said. “You try to keep focused [on the bench] in case that happens and you go in.
“The breakaways are nerve-wracking, but when you stop them it gives you confidence and gives your team momentum.”