The sophomore scored a hat trick, played almost every position and brought an excitement every time he touched the puck in York’s 4-2 win over Cape Elizabeth in the 2012 season opener for both schools.
The first period was for the most part a defensive struggle with neither side gaining much of an advantage.
Both schools killed off early penalties in the first period, the play was fast and physical with Cape dishing out most of the hurt but not being able to get any great shots on goal.
It became clear early on that it would be a game of two different styles of hockey, York who played mostly dump and chase, and Cape who controlled the puck, skating it or passing through the zones.
York’s Neal played defense in the first period and was crucial in helping kill off two penalties.
Through a great piece of puck movement which had York’s defender’s caught puck watching, Cape’s Satchel McCarthy scored the first goal of the game when he found himself all alone in front of the crease.
The second period started with Cape ahead 1-0 and much like the first period very tightly contested. The momentum of the game took a turn when York coach Michael Vessey moved Derek Neal back to his preferred position right wing. Neal got York back in the game when a defensive mistake cause by York’s fore checking behind the Cape net allowed him to move in front and score before Cape’s goalie Kevin Hare knew where the puck was. Not even a minute after York tied the game 1-1, Charlie Laprade of Cape received a pass in the high slot and his wrist shot beat York goalie Eric Lindbom to give Cape the lead gain at 2-1.
York battled back behind strong play from Neal who helped earn the Wildcats a five-on-three power play.
York’s forechecking gave Cape a very hard time as they could not clear the puck out of the zone for some time, but kept the score at 2-1 due to some point blank saves from goalie Kevin Hare. York’s persistence paid off when just after killing the two man advantage Neal gained the puck at center ice and toe dragged two Cape defenders before unleashing a snap shot that rang off the post and in to tie the game at 2-2.
Cape started the third period on the power play but could not get anything going due to York clogging up the neutral zone and not allowing the Cape forwards to skate the puck through. Fresh out of the penalty box, York’s Derek Neal almost got his hat trick when off a rebound he batted the puck out of midair only to be robbed by the glove of Cape’s Kevin Hare. York’s forechecking and physical play in the offensive zone again proved too much for Cape when Neal’s hard work in the corner helped the puck find Senior Zachary Franklin who made no mistake and fired a snap shot past Hare giving York a 3-2 lead.
Cape turned up the pressure battering York’s Goaltender Lindbom with shots in the last minutes of the game, almost drawing even when Capes Jack Drinan faked out Lindbom only to have the puck slide behind the goalie across the face of the goal. Cape pulled their goalie and with six skaters on the ice barraged the York net, only to have Lindbom make 4 point blank stops with traffic in front in the last thirty seconds of the game. Neal finally finished hit hat trick when he beat two cape defenders off the face off and skated the distance to calmly give his team the win.
York 1-0-0 will face the Noble nights on Wednesday, while the Capers 0-1-0 will look to bounce back against Yarmouth on Wednesday.