Too little, too late, Staples-Weston-Shelton put together a dominant performance on Friday, crushing Westhill 9-2 in its season finale at Milford Ice Pavillion.
With three goals and pair of assists from senior forward Wyatt Fern, the Wreckers closed out their year 6-14 overall, shy of the threshold (.400 win percentage) for the state tournament.
The Wreckers lost 13 of their last 16 games after starting the year 3-1.
"It's like bittersweet because the season's over," Staples coach Ralph Unker said of the win. "It was a great thing to see all the kids come together and just really play the way they're capable of, especially on Senior Day. It's something they'll always remember."
Six different players scored for Staples. Junior forward Sean Stewart had two goals -- the first on a rebound just 2:51 in to make it 1-0 -- while Zachary Speed, Steven Shulman, Ian Offenberg and Matthew Weisgerber each scored once.
Fern beat Westhill goaltender Tyler Phillipson off the backhand at 8:09 of the first to make it 2-0. He scored his second goal at 3:41 of the second to make it 6-2, and completed his hat trick with 33 seconds left.
"I would've rather gone to states, but I can't complain. We won our last game," Fern said.
Westhill's Szczepan Misiak cut the lead to 2-1 at 4:38 of the first, but Shulman made 3-1 just over four minutes later on a one-timer off a pass from Speed. The Wreckers, who out-shot Westhill 32-25, led 3-1 after the first period and 4-2 heading into the third.
Sophomore Matthew Beckoff earned the win in net for Staples with 23 saves.
"I've got to give him credit. He played with confidence," Unker said of Beckoff. "He made some movement-oriented saves and the big thing was he made most of the initial stops.
"He really kept us in the game. The kids saw that."
Staples held an 11-4 advantage in shots in the third period, during which it scored five times. Offenberg made it 5-2 with a wrister just 1:52 in off assists from Eric Zurmuehle and Stewart. The next three goals -- from Fern, Speed and Stewart -- were scored just under six minutes apart.
Zurmuehle had a game-high three assists, while Shulman added two helpers.
"It was a good way to end the season," Fern said. "We didn't make states, so that was kind of unfortunate. To go out with a win is pretty nice."
The win was Staples' second in the season's final three days, as the Wreckers also defeated Stamford 8-7 on Feb. 20 and lost to Trinity Catholic 3-1 a day later. The Wreckers played six games over the last nine days because of cancellations earlier in the year.
Unker credited his team, especially the seniors, for finishing strong.
"It was a great day for the seniors," Unker said. "It was a great day for the parents, for the team, program, everything. It was probably our best effort all year."
Unfortunately for the Wreckers -- who at one point this year lost seven straight games -- it was too little, too late. One of those losses came to Westhill in the first meeting between the two teams, 7-4 on Feb. 2.
"I don't know what it was, but we really pulled everything together now," Fern said. "We're playing more as a team, not individuals."
Phillipson made 17 saves in net for Westhill before he was pulled in the third period.
The Vikings fell to 5-12-2 overall.
email@example.com; 203-255-4561 ext. 114; twitter.com/DougBonjour
STAPLES-WESTON-SHELTON 9, WESTHILL 2
WESTHILL 1 1 0 -- 2
STAPLES 3 1 5 -- 9
Records: Staples 6-14; Westhill 5-12-2.
Goals: W -- Szczepan Misiak, Neal Smolinski; S -- Wyatt Fern 3, Sean Stewart 2, Zachary Speed, Steven Shulman, Ian Offenberg, Matthew Weisgerber. Assists: W -- Ryan Silk, Evan Shaulson; S -- Eric Zurmuehle 3, Fern 2, Shulman 2, Owen Engledrum, Thomas Meyers, Speed, Stewart. Goalies: W -- Tyler Phillipson (17 saves), Lucas Ehrlich (6); S -- Matthew Beckoff (23). Shots: W -- 25; S -- 32.