No one had to remind Central York about the magnitude of Friday night's CPIHL game against Dallastown.
Rivals for many years, as the only two York-area teams in Tier 1, the Panthers also had their last two meetings with the Wildcats on their minds.
After Central won the 2011-12 regular season Tier 1 title, the Wildcats beat the Panthers in the opening round of the playoffs, then did it again in the second game of this season.
"As a team we talked about the game. Everybody knew how big it was," Central captain Evan Malachosky said, "I think especially it being nearly halfway through the season."
The Panthers got late first-period goals from Collin Potter and C.J. Belker, and goalie Bryan Briggs made the lead stand as Central exacted some revenge in a 2-1 victory.
As the York City Ice Arena was packed with fans from each side, Briggs was the difference early when Dallastown controlled the tempo. The sophomore made five saves in the first five minutes with his team in back-to-back penalty-killing situations.
"Once you make the first save it gets your mind going," Briggs said. "I never lost focus."
Play stabilized from there and, with 4:27 left in the opening period, Potter took a Stehl Taylor pass and capped a power play by wristing a knuckler between the legs of Wildcats goalie Wyatt Malone for a 1-0 Panther lead.
Only 1:12 later, Belker emerged from a battle with two defenders along the boards, went behind the Dallastown net and zipped home a wrap-around for what turned out to be the winning goal off an assist from Nicholas Tranchitella.
"I caught him by surprise," Belker said of Malone, before admitting he never saw the puck go in. "Throw it on net and see what happens. It never hurts. It surprised me, too."
It was the third straight win for Central, though the team faced some harrowing moments.
Wildcats freshman Kalen Spencer-Patterson took a Nick Werner pass and ripped a perfect shot over Briggs from the face-off circle, cutting the Panthers' lead in half with more than nine minutes to play.
"There's a cliché in hockey that a two-goal lead is the hardest thing to play with," Central coach Rick Lefever said. "We've been playing with the philosophy that we think the game is 0-0. We kept reminding them we have to win our battles."
Lefever was pleased with his team's penalty killing as the game moved along. The Panthers limited Dallastown to only a couple shots over its last several power plays.
"I think we found our identity tonight as a defensive oriented team," the coach said. "Sometimes we tend to try and be an offensive team. That's not us."
"We've won three in a row. Now we are going to keep building on it," Malachosky added.
Briggs made one final stop down low in the waning moments, and the Wildcats couldn't pounce on the rebound as it rolled across the crease.
"This was a big game. They are above us in the standings," Briggs said. "It's always good to get a win against Dallastown."
CENTRAL YORK 2, DALLASTOWN 1
Central York -- 2 0 0 -- 2
Dallastown -- 0 0 1 -- 1
First Period -- 1. CY, Collin Potter (Stehl Taylor), 4:27. 2. CY, C.J. Belker (Nicholas Tranchitella), 3:15.
Third Period -- 3. Dt, Kalen Spencer-Patterson (Nick Werner), 9:06.
Shots On Goal -- CY 17, Dt 19
Goalies -- CY, Bryan Briggs (18 saves); Dt, Wyatt Malone (15 saves)