WILMINGTON, Mass. — With four state titles between the two teams in the last two seasons, there is really no surprise that nothing was settled between Burlington and Wilmington, Saturday at Ristuccia Arena – or in their 1-1 tie back on New Year’s Day.
Freshman Jason Collins pounced on a loose puck and unleashed a wicked slap shot to the top right corner past Burlington goalie Mike Guleserian that ultimately earned the Wildcats a point.
Wilmington goaltender Drew Foley stopped Burlington’s Shane O’Halloran on a breakaway with 1:34 left to preserve the 3-3 tie for Wilmington, which was without head coach Steve Scanlon, who was hospitalized with an infection.
“We came back and showed some character in that third period and battled through,” said Wilmington assistant coach Mark DiGiovanni. “It is always a battle with Burlington. We look forward to playing these guys and our guys always give our best against them.”
Wilmington got on the board just 1:54 into the game on a power play when Jim Davey’s point shot was re-directed by Luke Foley past Guleserian for a 1-0 lead.
The Red Devils would answer midway through the first when Kyle Kurtz tipped home a Josh Boulos shot to tie the game at one.
Anthony Nikolopolous gave the Devils the lead just 37 seconds into the second period when he cleaned up the rebound of a Robby McLean bid.
Wilmington needed a spark heading into the third period and got it from senior Cody McGowan who battled a puck loose at the left face-off circle and fired a dart over Guleserian’s shoulder from a tough angle.
Burlington answered just 45 seconds later when Tommy Hanafin crashed the net and finished off a pass from Ryan Sheldon to give the Devils the lead before Wilmington’s fine freshman evened things up.
Burlington held on to the point fighting off two Wilmington power plays with less than four minutes in the game.
It was both teams’ sixth tie of the season.
“We have a lot of ties and it was a tough tie for us because they tied us,” said Burlington coach Bob Conceison. “It was a tough game between two pretty even teams. We took a couple penalties in the third period that we survived but we need to do a better job of that.”
Foley comes up big: With Wilmington on a late game power play, Drew Foley had to emerge with his biggest save of the day.
Burlington defenseman Shane O’Halloran who was being used as a forward on the penalty kill broke free on a clean breakaway and busted in on Foley who closed the pads on O’Halloran to keep the game even for the Wildcats.
“You are always biting your nails when you see them go down on a breakaway,” added DiGiovanni. “But you also have a sense of confidence in the back of your head too that you have Drew (Foley) in there. He will win games for you and he will keep you in games.”
Foley finished with 25 saves on the day, but none was bigger than his last.
Surprise visit: On Thursday, Burlington High legend Jay Pandolfo officially announced his retirement from the NHL after 15 seasons and two Stanley Cups with the New Jersey Devils.
Ironcially, Pandolfo ended up on skates on Thursday visiting the Burlington Ice Palace and his old high school hockey coach, Bob Conceison, and took a twirl around the old barn with the team.
“We stay in touch and he said he was going to come down and skate and ironically it was the day he announced his retirement,” said Conceison.
For a Burlington team that has been struggling to score goals, who better to lean on than Pandolfo, who led Burlington to its first Super Eight appearance back in 1993, which was their only appearance until the 2008-09 team that lost in the final to Catholic Memorial.
“He pointed some things out to our forwards,” added Conceison. “I wanted him to work with them on getting to the net. He is a just a great guy and he sat in on some meetings and talked to the kids in the locker room as a group.”
Pandolfo’s retired No. 9 hangs in the entrance of the Ice Palace.