BY ALEX GRUBERMAN WEEKLY REPORTER
We have all heard Jim Mora’s playoffs rant. You know the one where he says, “What’s that? Ah, playoffs? Don’t talk about —playoffs? You kidding me? Playoffs? I just hope we can win a game! Another game.” Well, the O’Fallon Panthers hockey team is talking about playoffs. The Panthers faced off against Bethalto in the first round.
In Game One, the Panthers put up a seven spot on Bethalto to take a 1-0 series lead. The Panthers surrendered the first goal of the game, but after that there was no stopping O’Fallon. After giving up a goal, the Panthers bounced back and tied the game on a goal by Graham Sudduth, assisted by Jack Wallace and Hayden Ourada. Following the Panthers goal, Hayden found the back of the net with assists going to Sudduth and Wallace. Before the period ended, Ourada struck again with an assist from Joey Kurrasch. At the end of one period O’Fallon out shot Bethalto 10-8 and led 3-1.
Early in the second period, Bethalto cut the lead 3-2. However, that changed after Wallace assisted by Sudduth and Ourada scored a goal to increase the lead back to two. Late in the second, Bethalto scored another goal to trim the lead back to one. With seconds remaining, Sudduth assisted by Ourada and goalie Kristin Smith padded the lead back to two. After two periods, the Panthers led 5-3.
It took a while for the Panthers to get on the board in the third period, but with about four minutes remaining in the period, Ourada finished off his hat trick thanks to some nice passing from Sudduth and Wallace. Panthers led 6-3, but Bethalto would not go away as they scored their fourth goal. After hitting the hat trick, Ourada was hungry for another goal and scored his fourth goal of the night with the assists going to Wallace and Sudduth. Time expired and the O’Fallon Panthers came away with the 7-4 win, out shooting Bethalto 34-26.
The Panthers next squared off with Bethalto in Game Two Monday night in Granite City. After putting up seven goals in game one, could the Panthers hot offense continue in game two? Or would Bethalto come out and take game two to even the series?
The Panthers came out strong in the first period taking an early 1-0 lead. But like we saw in game one, Bethalto battled in the period and got one past Smith to tie the game at one a piece. The Panthers were able to score before the end of the period and heading to the second period the Panthers had a 2-1 lead.
In the second period, it was goals galore. Bethalto tied the game at two, but then the Panthers offense heated up. When the final buzzer went off to signal the end of the second period, the Panthers had a nice commanding lead of 7-2.
The scoring continued as the game entered the third period. The Panthers tallied on another four goals in the third period before giving a goal up to Bethalto. The Panthers would come away with an 11-3 victory over Bethalto, clinching the series two games to none. The Panthers hockey team will be moving on to the next round of the MVCHA tournament.