WATERTOWN — The Watertown Wolves squared off against the Port Huron Prowlers in an old-fashioned shootout Saturday night.
But unfortunately for the Wolves, despite a valiant comeback bid, they came out on the short end of an 8-6 loss to the Prowlers in a Federal Prospects Hockey League game before a turnout of 919 at Watertown Municipal Arena.
Watertown, which at one point trailed 4-0 early in the second period, stormed back to score six goals in the frame to take the lead at 6-5, capped by back-to-back shorthanded goals from Ryan Marker and Jamie Lukas within the final 2 1/2 minutes of the period.
“For sure, we showed a lot of resiliency in the second period, coming back to get the lead,” Lukas said. “And we proved to ourselves that we can come back and put the puck in the net. We’ve just got to be better in the defensive zone, obviously.”
But Port Huron responded with the next two goals to reclaim the lead for good on tallies from Austin Fetterly and Steven Fowler.
Both were scored with Wolves goalie Jeremy Pominville out of position, with the go-ahead goal from Fowler with 6 minutes and 49 seconds left in regulation, coming after the puck caromed off the back glass and in front to a wide-open Fowler, who scored into the open net.
“It was almost a carbon copy of (Friday) night,” Watertown coach Paul MacLean said. “We really can’t blame our goalies for the start and then we came back. And I think that bounce off the glass, I don’t know if I can really blame anybody, it’s almost like a set play for them. They bounce it off there, it came right out in front of Pommer and he didn’t see it.”
Dalton Jay scored three goals for the Prowlers, who swept the two-game set after defeating the Wolves, 6-4, on Friday night.
“Obviously this was a tough one,” Marker said. “The same thing as (Friday), another big comeback, but we fell short from bad breakdowns at the end of the game. We didn’t play consistent enough.”
While Port Huron (31-14) won its fifth consecutive game, Watertown (25-22) was dealt it third straight loss after edging league-leading Carolina, 2-1, in a conventional shootout following overtime last Friday.
“The one thing I said to them in there was ‘if you score six goals in a playoff game, that should be a win,’” MacLean said. “So this is disappointing.”
“Just really bad bounces, but at the end of the day it all comes from what we do,” Marker said. “We have to control what we have to control, we have to make sure the puck doesn’t go in the net. We didn’t give our goalies enough help tonight.”
The Prowlers grabbed a 2-0 lead on two goals from Jay in the first period. Jay followed with a goal 1:15 into the second period, beating Wolves starting goalie Mike Cosentino glove side to complete his hat trick.
Colton Maynard staked Port Huron to a 4-0 advantage 7:13 into the frame and after Lukas scored 18 seconds later, Domink Bogdziul followed with a goal at 9:37 as the Wolves drew within 4-2.
Mike Moroso followed with a shorthanded goal with 7:23 left in the period for a 5-2 Prowlers lead.
But Marker scored a power-play goal with 6:25 left and Denis Zaychik scored just 27 seconds later to pull Watertown within 5-4.
Then with Port Huron on a five-minute power play after Watertown’s Tristan Mackay was assessed a five-minute major penalty for elbowing after he fought with Matt Graham, Marker and Lukas followed with their back-to-back shorthanded goals within a span of 1:17, with Lukas’ goal coming with 47.2 seconds left in the period.
“For sure, that definitely gave us a lot of confidence and they had a short bench tonight, so they were definitely tired,” Lukas said of Port Huron. “I just wish we could have put a couple more in to get a little more of a lead there.”
Pominville, who relieved Cosentino after he had yielded Port Huron’s fifth goal at 12:37 of the second period, stopped 14 of 16 shots faced in taking the loss.
“If we tighten up the defensive zone like we did early on in the season, we’ll be fine,” MacLean said. “We really have to work on that, there’s too many neutral-zone turnovers and you’ve got to be careful rushing the puck. We have some things to work on.”
Blake Scott, who came in for starter Cory Simons two different times, including to start the third period, finished with 32 saves to record the win.
Marker, a rookie, reached the 40-goal mark this season with his first goal of the night for the Wolves.
“It definitely felt great, it’s a huge accomplishment,” Marker added. “But at the end of the day, we’re looking to win a championship here.”
With 13 games remaining in their regular season, the Wolves have just three home games left until the playoffs.
Watertown will play four games in four days next week, at Elmira at 7:05 p.m. Thursday, and two games at Elmira at 7:05 p.m. next Friday and Saturday. The Wolves will return to host Danbury at 4 p.m. next Sunday.
n NOTES: Lukas leads the league in shorthanded goals with six. ... The Wolves finished their homestand at 3-4. ... Marker, acquired in a trade with Delaware, has scored 10 of his goals this season in 11 games with Watertown. ... Scott, a former Wolves goalie, improved to 13-0 on the season, including 9-0 with the Prowlers after faring 3-0 with Watertown.