Moose slip past plucky Cleveland team in a pair of squeakers

JACKSON, Wyo. — The Jackson Hole Moose squeaked out a couple of exciting wins over the weekend against a scrappy club from Cleveland.

After a tentative start Friday night with both teams feeling each other out, Cleveland and Jackson headed to the dressing room knotted at one after the first period.

The second frame was a bit more wide open with Cleveland tallying four times to Jackson’s two goals. The Moose were likely read the riot act by coach Howie Carruth in the locker room at the second intermission because they came out looking much better in the final 20 minutes.

Cleveland didn’t help themselves any. Beginning to tire, they cut a path to the penalty box in the third and surrendered three goals as a result.

Dakota Richardson notched the hattrick Friday with a 4-point night (3G, 1A). Drew Akins picked up two goals and three assists, and AJ Sanders added three helpers in the 6-5 come from behind win.

Carruth opted to go with backup goalie Will Murphy in Saturday’s contest. The gamble sometimes pays off as a way to get his skaters to come out better at the start, feeling the need to play harder for their second-stringer in the net.

If that was reasoning, it worked. The Moose lit the lamp three times in the opening frame. Trouble is, Cleveland kept the hometown team in their headlights, answering with two of their own.

With the game evened at 3-3 to start the third, hockey fans were in for another exciting finish. The third period had a bit of everything and then some. Both teams managed three goals each and the penalties began piling up.

Cleveland finished the game minus one player—Kevin Irwin—who was tossed from the contest after arguing a call. Irwin, who played hockey in France after a collegiate career with Vermont, was the 2nd star in Friday’s affair.

The Moose were also down a man or two on the bench after captain Brian Upsleja left the game with a serious collarbone injury and Sage Welch was handed a 10-minute misconduct with less than six minutes left in regulation.

In all, referees whistled 68 minutes in penalties—36 to the Moose, 32 to Cleveland.

With the game tied 7-7 at the end of 60 minutes, it was on to a 3-on-3 five-minute overtime that usually favors the home team. Most visiting teams have trouble adjusting to the altitude in Jackson Hole. Three skaters on the ice, as opposed to the typical five, leaves little place to hide mistakes or fatigue.

Not long into the extra frame, Drew Akins found the back of the net for the game-winner and his 3rd goal of the game to go along with four assists. Sanders and defenseman Brad Improta finished with a 1G, 3A nights. Richardson added 3 assists and Alex Dewitz potted 2 goals.

Unsung hero of the weekend? Cleveland goalie Matt Kovesdy—a high school standout at St. Ignatius High in Ohio—saw more rubber than a dead skunk on I-80. He finished 55 shots on Friday, stopping 49 of them. On Saturday, he saved 53 of 61 shots he faced.

The Moose better their record to 16-6. They’ll take on the San Francisco Draft Kings this weekend at the Snow King Sports and Event Center.

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