Cole Beaufait’s two goals lead hockey to 3-1 revenge win over FHNE

Matthew Mahoney

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In a rematch of FHC’s heartbreaking 3-2 loss to Forest Hills Northern/Eastern less than a month ago, senior Cole Beaufait scored two goals and recorded one assist to put the Rangers in the driver’s seat of the OK Baum conference with Saturday’s 3-1 win. According to head coach Kevin Zaschak, the boys as a whole played very well by putting the team first, but Cole shined with his two very impactful goals.

“Cole’s goals were so important because it completely took away FHNE’s momentum and gave our team a huge confidence boost throughout the game,” Mason said.

After FHNE goalie Kyler Lowden dropped the puck back to a Bird-Dog defender behind the net early in the game, Cole forced a turnover on the right side as the FHNE player attempted to wrap around. From a tough angle nearly parallel to the goal post, Cole beat a surprised Lowden in net to his front post through the narrowest of openings to give FHC a 1-0 lead, which would end up holding until the end of the period. 

Not much action occurred compared to the previous meeting between these two teams, as the shots on goal advantage was only 7-6 in favor of FHNE, much different than the 14-4 lead the Rangers had after one period of play last time. This was largely in part to two very good defenses, and Zaschak prides his team on the hard-nosed defense they play game in and game out.

“We’re a defensive-minded team, and we give up an average of fewer than two goals per game,” Zaschak said. “Defense is hard work, determination, and a lot of personal sacrifice. This team has bought in full force [to that].”

In the second period, the Rangers picked up the offensive pressure, recording 14 SOG in the second 17 minutes of play alone. While FHC would go on to score, FHNE was the first to strike, evening up the game off a missed clearance from the Rangers. The Bird-Dogs had drawn the FHC defense out of position with their intense pressure in the FHC zone, and FHNE’s Ryan Endres secured the puck and beat Gavin for the score.

“After they scored, we just made sure to keep the puck deep and keep them out of the zone to have us on offense as much as we could,” junior defenseman Collin Ward said.

On the contrary, later in the period, the Rangers were placing plenty of pressure on the FHNE defense too. After a pass from one side of the boards behind their own net to the other, Bird-Dog Eli Howe forced a pass into the middle that was blocked by Cole. The blocked pass then made its way to the middle of the ice with junior Mason Kelly one-on-one with the goalie ten feet in front of the net, but the shot was saved to Lowden’s left. Fortunately for the Rangers, the puck fell to a crashing Cole, who buried it into the back of the net for a 2-1 FHC lead at the end of the second period. 

Just like the last game between these two teams, FHC held a 2-1 lead heading into the final period of play. For Zaschak, closing out the game was all about defense.

“[For the third period] our focus was continued defensive awareness and pressure and not allowing another goal,” Zaschak said. “The boys did their job and also added an insurance goal while they were at it.”

Shots wise, the Rangers held the advantage in the third with five SOG compared to FHNE’s four. Throughout, the boys constantly pressured the Bird-Dogs, and senior Ryan Jeffreys provided the third and final goal for the Rangers to essentially clinch the win.

While Cole may have led the offense to its success, the story for the game was defense and the revival of junior goaltender Gavin Brady. After a couple of somewhat shaky performances in his first season as a starting varsity hockey goalie, Gavin saved 20 of 21 shots from FHNE on Saturday to really gain some confidence.

“We were very happy for Gavin, who bounced back to get a big win net,” Zaschak said. “He answered the bell and came back strong to help the team win.”

In front of Gavin, defensemen senior Hayden Sarjeant and sophomore Lucas Jeffreys played one of their best games all season as a pair, forcing FHNE into contested chances, which was very different from the fast break opportunities the Bird-Dogs had in the previous matchup.

With the revenge win over FHNE, the Rangers improve to 11-3 on the season, taking full control of the conference with a one-point advantage over the Bird-Dogs in second place with ten games to play in the regular season. This victory provides the Rangers with not only an emotional rivalry win and control of the conference, but it also gives the team momentum heading into the final stretch.

“This game had conference implications, along with lingering feeling of playing very well the first meeting and coming up short,” Zaschak said. “We felt that if we played with the same intensity and focused on our defensive zone, we would put ourselves in a good position in not only this game, but also for the weeks to come. We did exactly that.”