Wrecker skaters get 1st win, seek improvement
After an 0-3 start, the Staples-Weston co-op boys hockey team skated to its first win of the campaign, a 4-2 doubling of Newtown at Danbury Ice Arena on Saturday, but the Wreckers were hardly content with getting into the win column.
Aaron Liu was set up by centerman Kyle Wehmhoff for a goal just 10 seconds after the game's opening faceoff. Staples had enough offense, defense and goaltending to outlast the Nighthawks, who dropped to 1-1.
"We started out the right way the first 10 seconds. We jumped out to the lead," Staples coach Ralph Unker said. "After that I was disappointed with the effort."
Unker said the Wreckers over-stick handled at times and played the game at a slower pace than he believes the team is capable of playing.
"We need to play the game at a faster pace," Unker said. "We have to be able to come out and play 45 minutes of hockey the way we're capable of playing."
As unsatisfied as Unker was, he still goes by the old adage that a win's win.
"I'm happy to get the win. It's good to break into the win column," he said.
"It felt good. It was important -- it was good to get our first win," said goaltender Alex Skinner who made 22 saves.
After the quick-strike tally, the Wreckers held onto their lead thanks, in part, to some nice saves by Skinner. He made a stop on a shot by Newtown's Parker Rodbell taken through a screen in front, stymied Hunter Dolyak in close and later made a sliding save to deny Matt Vitti. Just when it looked as if the Wreckers were going to be fortunate to escape with a slim lead through one period of play, Whemhoff set up Wyatt Fern for a 2-0 advantage with just 53 seconds remaining in the opening stanza.
In the second period, a Newtown shot got behind Skinner but clanked loudly off of the goal post and then Skinner denied Josh Branchflower on a shorthanded chance to keep the 2-0 lead intact. Newtown finally broke through 8:06 into the second when David Landau skated in from the neutral zone and sneaked a shot through Skinner's pads.
The Wreckers got their two-goal lead back when Liu made a blue line to blue line pass to Wehmhoff who got behind the Newtown defense and made a deke to stuff home a breakaway goal with 3:09 left in the middle period.
The Wreckers took a penalty late in the second but forced a turnover deep in Newtown's zone and drew a Nighthawk penalty to even things up. Neither team scored again in the second and the Wreckers carried a 3-1 advantage into the third. Forrest Savage rang one high off the post/cross bar and was denied by Newtown goaltender Dylan Deselin on successive shots in the second period.
In the third, the physicality picked up and the hard hitting led to some chippiness. The teams traded trips to the penalty boxes in a whistle-filled third period and Savage took advantage of some open ice opportunity with a 4-on-four goal when he was set up by Luke Andriuk, skated in from the left side and roofed a high shot for a 4-1 lead with 1:29 to play. Newtown answered 12 seconds later to make it a two-goal difference again but that's as close as the Hawks would get.
The Wreckers should have had a better performance, the players believed.
"As a team we didn't play that good," said Wehmhoff who had a hand in the scoring of all but one Staples goal.
"Passing, shooting -- just trusting each other also," Savage added.
Unker said he believes the team is capable of doing as well as it did a year ago when the Wreckers reached the Division III championship game. Staples lost 10 players to graduation and another six to a combination of injury and players not returning to the lineup but the coach says he has confidence in his skaters.
The Wreckers host Housatonic on Saturday at 6:30 p.m.