If you are from Pittsburgh and follow the sports scene in the city then there is a good chance you have heard of the “City Game,” an annual contest between the Pitt Panthers and Duquesne Dukes basketball programs. Each year the rivals go head-to-head on the hardwood for city basketball supremacy.
This year, the game is scheduled for December 1 but before the teams meet on the court, they faced off on the ice as the respective school's club hockey programs played the “City Game on Ice” last evening at PPG Paints Arena where the Panthers came out on top 3-1 over the Dukes.
Less than 30 seconds into the game the Panthers got the scoring started from a goal in tight. A loose puck in front of the net was corralled and poked behind the Dukes’ goaltender by Craig Mazzotta for the early 1-0 Pitt lead.
Back on their heels, the Dukes struggled to gain possession of the puck long enough to set up their offense and did not record a shot on goal until over eight minutes into the opening period.
Taking momentum from their early opening goal, the Panthers kept applying pressure and controlled play for most of the first period. Eventually the relentless attack paid off and gave the visiting side a two advantage just past the halfway point of the period.
Collecting the puck just inside the offensive zone, Panthers’ defenseman Brendan Walch released a slap shot from the point right on net where his teammate JD Oddi was standing alone in front. Oddi was able to get his stick on the puck and redirect it over the goaltender’s shoulder and into the back of the net for a 2-0 Panthers lead.
Both sides exchanged power play chances late in the first period but neither side could capitalize with the man advantage and the score stood at 2-0 in favor of the Panthers at the first intermission.
After 20 minutes of having the game taken to them in the first period, the Dukes came out of the locker room refocused and ready to pull themselves back into the contest.
Starting the second period on the power play, the Dukes were able to generate zone time and create opportunities on the offensive end. Although they were unable to score, the Dukes were able to feed off their improved play and pull back momentum to their side.
Numerous chances came and went for the Dukes but it felt like one was bound to go in if they kept playing their game and lo and behold the pressure finally paid off a little past the 13 minute mark of the second period.
Skating in alone, Jason Bechtel gave a slight shoulder fake to open up the Panthers’ goalie and slid the puck short side to get the Dukes on the board and cut the deficit in half to 2-1 with plenty of time left.
Just like that, the Dukes were back in the game and their fans were alive for the first time all night.
As the clock ticked down the in the second period, the Dukes kept fighting for an equalizer but it never came and the Panthers went into the second intermission clinging to a 2-1 lead.
Still trailing when the puck dropped to begin the third period, the Dukes knew they needed a goal to bring the game level or face defeat against their city rival.
Chances came and went for both sides but it was the Panthers who were finally able to find an insurance goal and put the game on ice late in the third period off a great individual effort.
Carrying the puck into the offensive zone and knowing he had no immediate help behind him, Panthers’ forward Daniel Merz took it upon himself to restore his team’s two goal advantage.
Powering around a defender, Merz swung around the net and was able to sneak the puck between the goalie’s skate and the post for the wrap around goal and a 3-1 Panthers’ lead with just over five minutes remaining in regulation time.
Back up by two goals, the Panthers’ defense took over and placed the game on lock down for the remainder of the contest. The Dukes were unable to pull themselves back into the game and even with the goalie pulled for an extra attacker could muster nothing in the way of a threatening chance late.
Eventually the game clock hit zero and the final horn sounded giving the Panthers a 3-1 victory in the “City Game on Ice” at PPG Paints Arena.