Baker rises up for Altoona
In the senior night program, Altoona’s Butch Baker listed hoisting the Laurel Mountain Hockey Championship Cup last year as his favorite memory.
Tuesday night’s game might rank high on that list, as well.
Baker scored three goals and assisted on another in an 8-3 win over rival Hollidaysburg on senior night at Galactic Ice.
“It’s great to be able to do it in front of family and friends from school. It was just a great experience,” the senior forward said.
The two teams traded goals for two periods before Altoona broke the game open with four goals in the third period.
After Cole Yeckley scored 2:19 into the game off an assist from Parker Cumming, Nate Nebelski tied the game 1-1 with a goal 28 seconds later.
Baker then put Altoona back in front with his first goal of the game.
“I came streaming through the neutral zone on the left side, cut to the middle and tried to use the defenseman as a screen. I didn’t want the goalie to see it,” Baker said. “It was at the end of the my shift, and I just wanted to get it on goal.”
Nebelski scored again off a pass from Alex Lieb for his league-leading 42nd goal, tying the game for a second time.
“When he’s on the ice, you have to have somebody in his hip pocket all the time. We didn’t do that in the first period,” Altoona coach Don Burgmeier said. “After that, we did a better job keeping him to the outside and putting a lot of traffic in the center lane.”
Baker closed out the first period scoring with a goal assisted by Owen Kravetz and Austin Homan to put Altoona up 3-2.
“Austin made a great pass. I was wide open and had the goalie moving side-to-side. He had no chance. It was a great offensive shift,” Baker said.
It didn’t take Hollidaysburg long to tie the game for a third time when Justin Singer scored off a pass from Matt Valente 2:06 into the second period.
A lucky bounce later in the period not only gave Baker the hat trick, but it also put the Mountain Lions in the lead for good.
“Luckiest goal I ever scored. I was just trying to pass it in front, and it bounced off the back of the goalie’s stick. I didn’t even know it went in until I saw my teammates raising their sticks and celebrating,” he said.
Even though Altoona did not score again in the second, the Mountain Lions kept the puck in the Hollidaysburg end, and the Golden Tigers began to wear down.
“We had three or four shifts at the second where we were in their zone the whole time. They started to wear down at that point,” Burgmeier said. “We weren’t able to score, but we reaped the rewards in the third period.”
Altoona took a two-goal edge early in the third period when Baker and Kravetz reversed roles. From behind the net, Baker found his linemate open in front for the score.
After A.J. Thompson put one in, Kravetz scored again for his fourth point of the night. Homan closed out the scoring with 5:34 left in the game.
“They’re a good third period team. They’re tough to match up against, and they have a lot of depth. We were pretty successful at it there for a while,” Hollidaysburg coach Sean McTighe said.
Altoona remained unbeaten atop the league with a 16-0-1 record. Hollidaysburg fell to 6-10-2. The Golden Tigers are tied with Conemaugh Valley for the sixth and final playoff spot, but CV has two games in hand on Hollidaysburg.
“We’re getting better. We played them much better than we did earlier in the season. It’s a process. A lot of the kids are moving in the right direction,” McTighe said.
SCORE BY PERIODS
Hollidaysburg 2 1 0–3
Altoona 3 1 4–8
FIRST PERIOD: A — Co. Yeckley (Cumming), 12:41; H — Nebelski (unassisted), 12:13; A — Baker (Cumming, Wyland), 9:56; H — Nebelski (Lieb), 6:59; A — Baker (Kravetz, Homan), 3:06.
SECOND PERIOD: H — Singer (Valente), 12:54; A — Baker (Kravetz), 4:23.
THIRD PERIOD: A — Kravetz (Baker), 13:20; A — Thompson (Umbleby, Wyland), 10:43; A — Kravetz (Wolf), 9:52; A — Homan (Co. Yeckley, Ca. Yeckley), 5:34.
Goalies: Wolford (H), saved 25-of-33 shots faced; Montgomery (A), saved 11-of-14 shots faced.
Records: Hollidaysburg (6-10-2); Altoona (16-0-1).