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Coming of age Mounts bounce Hempfield on goal in final seconds
By: TODD RUTH Review Sports Editor email@example.com, Staff Writer
Coming off its greatest season in program history, one which culminated in both an L-L and District Three championship, Ephrata appeared to be headed for a rebuilding year in 2013.
Afterall, the Mounts graduated 13 seniors from that team, all of whom played key roles. And, to make matters worse, Blake Weaver, one of just three returning starters for this year, is out for at least the foreseeable future with a knee injury suffered during football season.
But following a pair of non-league losses to start the season, the Mounts made a huge statement Tuesday afternoon at Hempfield that they may not be in rebuilding mode afterall.
With the score tied at 7-7 in the final minute of play, junior Koty Keefer fed a pass to the front of the net where teammate Scott Gordon was stationed. Gordon turned and beat Hempfield goalie Dylan Risner with 13 ticks remaining to give the Mounts a huge 8-7 come-from-behind victory over the Black Knights.
"It’s huge momentum," Ephrata Coach Kevin Pletz said of the victory. "We needed this. We were kind of down in the dumps after starting the season 0-2. It was not a fun start so this is a huge boost of confidence for a lot of the younger guys, and confidence for our whole team. It’s a good pick-me-up."
Keefer, who led the way for Ephrata with three goals and three assists Tuesday,
It proves we’re not dead," he said. "There’s a lot more of us. We might have lost a lot of guys from last year but we got heart. We came together today and played as a team. We did well on face-offs, defense, (goalie Justin) Mease came up big in the cage and our offense played well… It was just a great team win."
Trailing 6-3 late in the third, the Mounts got one back in the final minute to draw within two at 6-4 on a goal by Justin Hoover. And they carried the momentum into the final quarter.
Keefer ripped as shot past Risner from the slot at the 10:23 mark to cut it to 6-5. Then, playing a man up following a Hempfield penalty, Ephrata knotted it at 6-6 as Colin Cammauf converted on a nice feed from Keefer with 8:03 to play.
"We just started working together as a team, and got out of that stagnant offense that we were running," Pletz said of what fueled the comeback. "Things happened, and we took advantage of a good amount of them."
Hempfield had a golden opportunity with 4:46 to go when the Mounts found themselves two men down. However, the Mounts defense packed it in in front of Mease and the Black Knights got off only one shot during that sequence.
Mease saved that one, and the tide again turned in the direction of the Mounts. Then, with 1:38 to play, Keefer went straight down the slot off a re-start and beat Risner for the 7-6 Ephrata lead.
The Mounts then got possession off the face-off, but turned it over with 1:15 to go. That led to a Black Knight scoring opportunity, and Hayden Miller didn’t waste it, beating Mease on a beautiful low shot with 33 seconds to play to knot it up at 7-7.
But that set the stage for the Mounts’ late heroics. Andy Moore won the ensuing face-off, and the ball eventually found it’s way to Keefer, who dodged a defender at the top of the box before finding Gordon, who put it home for the gamewinner.
"My teammates trusted me with the ball," Keefer said of his role in the final Ephrata goal. "We got the ball in a good offensive set that we like. I just took that dodge from the top, Scott made a great move and got open on the crease, and I just hit him. It was a great finish by Scott…A nice play."
Of Keefer, Pletz said, "Koty is definitely the catalyst of our offense. He took some of that upon himself and put it on his shoulders. He got that second-to-last goal and then that nice assist to Scotty to finish off the win. He’s definitely a huge part of our offense."
In addition to Keefer, Ephrata got scoring from several sources on this day. Cammauf registered a goal and an assist while Jeremy Kachel, Austin Sensenig, Hoover and of course Gordon also found the net for the Mounts, who held an 18-14 shot advantage.
Matt Senft scored three goals to pace Hempfield (0-1) while teammate Nick Valentino chipped in with a goal and four assists.
Mease was solid all day in goal for Ephrata, making seven saves on the afternoon. Risner had 10 stops for the Black Knights in the loss.
"We started off (the season) slowly but we have a lot of young talent and we are just kind of bringing them together and getting them acclimated to the varsity level," Pletz said. "I kept telling them that things are going to come together. We just got to be patient and continue to grow. And this is a huge first step for us."
"I know what these guys are capable of," he continued. "It was just putting the pieces together. Most people counted us out of it but we are fighters."
The Mounts will host Country Day Thursday at Mountaineer Field, beginning at 7 p.m.
Ephrata began the season Friday night at home with a 7-3 loss to Seneca Valley out of the Pittsburgh area.
Cammauf scored a pair of goals to lead Ephrata while Hoover also found the net. Sensenig added a pair of assists.
Mease registered six saves as both teams collected 13 shots.
The Mounts also dropped a 15-5 decision at Exeter on Saturday. Hoover tallied four goals while Kachel added the other Ephrata score. Keefer chipped in with two helpers while Chris Husson also added an assist.
Mease made 14 stops for the Mounts, who were out-shot, 24-13. More MOUNTS LAX, page B-5