It had the makings of a rough Friday night for Penncrest hockey.
It’s late. Marple Newtown takes a 2-0 lead 2:22 into the game. That lead holds at 4-1 as the second intermission looms just over a minute away. There’s a backup goalie in net. The Lions are missing one of their biggest playmakers in Nate Chuckran after a stinger suffered in the third period. And another of their top players is a bit sluggish thanks to a stomach bug that’s been going around the team.
So what’s the gameplan for the Lions? Tell Brendan Murphy to go get ’em.
Murphy scored his first goal at 14:29 of the second period to cut the deficit to 4-2. By 9:05 of the third period, it was 6-5 Penncrest, and Murphy’s goal tally was at five.
That’s five goals, scored three different ways, in 10 minutes, 36 seconds. Not a bad turn of work.
“On face value, it’s just a great individual effort,” Penncrest coach Steve Mescanti said. “He really rallied the troops around him and just dragged them to a win.”
All that rallying came after he was, shall we say politely, forced to rectify a stomach ailment on the bench a couple of times in the first period. But Murphy didn’t seem much the worse for wear.
Penncrest certainly got a little help thanks to a pair of simultaneous minor penalties on the Tigers with 2:15 left in the second period. Murphy cashed in with his first goal, the sixth of the season, off a JP Page assist at 14:29. Eighteen seconds later, the man power advantage down to 5-on-4, he had another maker off a feed from Chuckran to send the game into the third period at a more manageable 4-3 margin.
But when Chuckran went off for his injury, Murphy’s ice time ratcheted up and he switched to the solo method. He blocked a shot at the point and roofed a breakaway for a shorthanded goal that tied things up.
“I felt a lot of the weight put on my shoulders when Nate went down,” Murphy said. “We needed him out there, and once he went out, we knew we had to stick together. We knew we had to work with what we had. Everyone’s mindset out there was in the same place, and we were able to work together to get the win.”
Luckily for Penncrest, “what they had” was Murphy. After Nick Andreades’ second goal of the game surged Marple ahead again, Murphy re-knotted matters with an even-strength goal off Brendan Howanksi’s second assist of the game. It was another crucial juncture at which the Lions could’ve faltered.
“To see them tie it was hard after all the work we put in to get it tied,” Murphy said. “We knew we couldn’t let them get another.”
When Marple again made a trip to the sin bin, one of 10 stints in the box, Murphy picked up a loose puck in the neutral zone, weaved around a defender and buried No. 5 for another unassisted tally.
The goals were the obvious take away from Murphy’s night, but for Mescanti, it was only the tip of the iceberg of his contributions.
“He really picked up the slack,” Mescanti said. “He really stepped up. It wasn’t just on the ice. He was talking to the other guys on the bench, telling them to keep covering the puck and making sure they were doing the right things.”