NAPERVILLE — Evan Ziegler knew a one-timer was his only option. He just hoped his Waubonsie/Metea teammate Ryan Burk could find him with the puck.
Burk not only saw Ziegler, he fed him a perfect pass into the slot from below the goal line to the right of the Maine net. Ziegler wasted no time, blasting a one-timer past Ryan Besenjak to give the Warriors a 4-3 overtime win in the Illinois West Cup final at All Seasons Ice Arena.
The goal came only 47 seconds into the extra session and evened the best-of-three series at one game apiece. The series-deciding Game 3 is set for 9 p.m. Thursday at the Oakton Ice Arena in Park Ridge.
“I wasn’t sure he (Burk) was going to see me but I was open and I was calling for that puck,” said Ziegler, who scored his team-leading sixth goal of the conference playoffs. “I knew if he got that puck to me I was putting it right in the back of the net. The goalie was on that right post so I felt that (one-timer) was my only option and I just did exactly what I needed to do.”
Burk added, “I picked my head up to look and I saw Zeegs. He had his stick up ready for the pass so I just gave it to him because I knew he’d score it. I was trying to get it right on his stick.”
Four players scored for the Warriors, who lost 4-1 in the opener to Maine. In that game, Maine’s Dean Andrews put on a show, scoring all of his team’s goals, including one only 23 seconds into the contest.
Andrews nearly repeated the quick goal on his opening shift, but was turned aside twice by Warriors goalie Andrew Fichtel and finished the night with one of Maine’s three goals.
But Maine did take a 1-0 lead midway through the first after a wild scramble to Fichtel’s right. Peter Thompson was credited with the goal that may have been pushed across the goal line by a Warrior player’s attempt to clear the puck.
The Warriors responded three minutes later when Joshua Pijanowski scored with a low shot from the right blue line. James Naffziger drew the assist after skating around the net and firing the puck out to Pijanowski, who scored for the second time in the conference playoffs.
A little less than three minutes after that, the Warriors took their first lead of the series. This time it was Joseph Pijanowski with the goal, getting assists from Ziegler and Burk. Burk kept the puck in the zone along the far side before sending a diagonal pass to Ziegler, who quickly pushed it to Pijanowski breaking down the middle for the goal.
The offense wasn’t done yet. With 1:44 left in the period, the Warriors grabbed a 3-1 lead on a Colton Richardson goal off a Maine turnover in its own zone. Owen Cope shoveled the loose puck to Braden Ondrus, who skated into the left face-off circle and ripped a wrister that Besenjak turned aside for one of his 22 saves. But Richardson was there for the rebound and his first goal of the playoffs.
“We knew this would probably be our last home game of the season so we wanted to come out, start fast, get some goals early and then we were able to finish it off in the end,” Burk said. “We had a lot of juice going on the bench. We were being positive, hyping each other up, making sure we were doing all the right things to score as much as possible.”
The second period was a different story, though. Aiden Costigan and Andrews each scored power-play goals to even the game 3-3 through two periods.
Costigan’s goal came first as Maine needed only 15 seconds on the man advantage to cut the Warrior’s lead to one. The play started along the left-wing boards as Ryan Belz sent the puck into the slot where Jacob Salvatore redirected it on net. After a scramble for the rebound Aidan Costigan scored from the far side, slipping the puck past a downed Fichtel, who finished with 38 saves.
About five minutes later and again on a power play, Maine tied it on an unassisted goal from Andrews on an end-to-end rush. Andrews beat two defenders and then played the puck off a Warriors stick in front for the goal.
“Last year they did the exact same thing in Game 2 of the championship,” Ziegler said of Maine’s two-goal rally. “We knew we had to rebound. We knew we couldn’t quit out there. Just keep battling and it went our way.”
It sure did. The teams exchanged chances in the third, but neither could come away with the game winner, sending the game to a 10-minute overtime period and setting up Ziegler’s heroics.
Happy with the victory, the Warriors still knew one win isn’t enough to clinch the series. They’ll need to repeat the result against a strong Maine team playing in its own barn.
“It’s going to be a hostile environment,” Burk said. “We know what their rink is like so we want to go there and try to quiet the crowd and start fast again. Our fast start was very helpful (in game 2).”