Staples boys hockey edges Norwalk-McMahon
Updated 11:21 pm, Wednesday, February 22, 2017
MILFORD — With a 3-13-1 record entering Wednesday’s action, the Staples-Weston-Shelton boys hockey team hasn’t been able to celebrate much when the final horn sounds.
The Wreckers celebrated before, and after, in their penultimate game of the season.
Staples enjoyed Senior Night with a 4-3 win over Norwalk-McMahon at the Milford Ice Pavilion. Four different players scored for the Wreckers, who notched just their second FCIAC win of the season.
“When you only have three wins going in and it’s your second-to-last game, you’re going to be happy to get a win,” said Staples coach Chris Avena. “Especially on Senior Night, it’s always going to mean more.”
The rivalry between the neighboring programs includes the players’ familiarity with one another in the youth circuit. Norwalk coach Dale Wehmhoff is the uncle of Wreckers junior Robert Wehmhoff, who notched an assist in the game and almost scored in the first period.
“He’s a great kid; we always rag on him quite a bit,” said Dale Wehmhoff, who is in his first year at Norwalk. “Today we didn’t talk about a wager, but it’s always fun.”
The Wreckers held a 4-2 lead late, but had to hold off a Norwalk rally. The visitors called timeout with a minute left and pulled goalie David Lamb; Kevin Remson scored on a scramble in front of the net with 50 seconds remaining to pull to within 4-3. Staples prevented any further chances in the final stages to seal the win.
“It was pretty evenly-matched,” Avena said. “In a one-goal game we maybe just made one more save. We tried to keep the puck in deep, grind it low, grind it out and really try and take care of the puck.”
Staples never trailed as senior Evan Mancini scored less than four minutes into the game. Norwalk had several chances to get back. Remson scored nine seconds into the second period, but goals from Aidan Conte and Zach Strober gave the Wreckers a 3-1 lead.
“I can’t believe they only have three or four wins because they’re not a bad team,” Wehmhoff said of the Wreckers. “We had a couple of breakdowns and that’s what happens, the other team capitalizes.”
Much of the Wreckers subpar record can be tied to a brutal schedule. Avena — who is in his first year with the team — said the team played one of its best games of the season in a 6-4 loss to North Branford on Monday.
“I think it was a huge learning process,” Avena said. “Myself learning the players and the players learning me. We’ve had three or four one-goal games, and we were tied in two or three other games going into third. If we did one or two things better, we might be looking at the state tournament.”
Norwalk (5-13-1) is headed to the Division III state tournament, but missed a chance to improve on its seeding. The Bears reached the state playoffs for the first time in a decade last year, and hoped to make the next jump this winter.
“I thought we’d be a lot better and stronger,” Wehmhoff said. “When the boys compete, they play well. We have to score four or five goals to win hockey games; if we don’t do that, we’re not going to win.”
STAPLES 4, NORWALK MCMAHON 3
NORWALK-MCMAHON 0 2 1—3
STAPLES-WESTON SHELTON 1 2 1—4
Goals: NM—Kevin Remson 2, Quinn Sandor; SWS—Evan Mancini, Aidan Conte, Zach Strober, George Englehart. Assists: NM—Derek Lue; SWS—Jason Streiter, Sam New, Robert Wehmhoff. Goalies: NM—David Lamb (27 saves); SWS—Zack Bloom (23). Records: Norwalk 5-13-1, Staples 4-13-1.