By Ethan Dorval and Jean LeBlanc
BERLIN — The Berlin River Drivers and the Danbury Titans met up in Berlin's Notre Dame Arena for a matinee game on Sunday. Center Jan Salak scored the eventual game-winning goal at 10:45 of the second period, lifting Berlin past arch-rival Danbury 2-1 in a Federal League Hockey game. The River Drivers improved to 12-9-1-3 on the year and surpassed 11-10-3-1 Danbury, moving into second place overall.
Berlin overcame the Titans, in a highly-contested game that saw both teams fight for victory, both physically and in terms of the speed game. The River Driver's Salak wreaked havoc in front of the opposing net at 2:48 in the first period creating a deflection goal, resulting in the River Drivers lead 1-0. Josh Pietrantonio was credited with his fourth goal of the season with Salak and fan-favorite Nick Wright getting the helping markers.
The River Drivers saw a definite territorial advantage in the first frame of action. Despite this advantage the Titans tied the game at 4:49 in the first period. Titan John Scully, who failed to report to the River Drivers at the beginning of the season, managed to knot the game for the Titans when his shot deflected off a defender's leg to tie things 1-1. The assists on the Scully lamp-lighter went to Nilolai Okhlobystin and Tyler Noseworthy.
The rest of the game was an up and down the ice affair, showcasing the speed of the Titans in transition while the River Drivers maintained most of the territorial possession. The Drivers gained the lead for good at 9:15 of the second period. Hulking power forward Salak got his second of the winter off of a scramble in front of the Titan net. The assists on the play went to Juto Osawa, who displayed exceptional board play, and Pietrantonio. Osawa was one of the Drivers better forwards, consistently winning battles along the boards and creating opportunities through his possession play.
In the third period, the visitors picked up their play and intensity trying to get the equalizer. New Berlin goaltender,Cory Simons was looking for his second straight win in as many nights. Simons saved his best for the third period and robed Scully in tight at the 13:54 mark of the third period.
Danbury outshot Berlin 13-7 in the final 20 minutes of play, but it was to no avail.
The relentless effort of River Driver's forecheckers constantly pressing the opposition that helped in dictating the victory. The visitors pulled their keeper for the extra skater in the final minute of play, but that didn't help either. Berlin had a 2-1 victory and sole possession of second place.
The River Drivers will look to continue their winning ways on Saturday, Jan. 14. The locals face-off against the Cornwall Nationals in a 7 p.m. start.