Wreckers ice Housatonic, 10-3
Following a tough-to-swallow 4-3 overtime loss to Stamford on Dec. 30, the Staples-Weston high school boys' hockey team had everything clicking in a 10-3 thumping of the Housatonic-Northwestern co-op team in Shelton on Jan. 2.
Sophomore Kyle Weh-mhoff scored five goals and assisted on three others to lead the Wreckers as they jumped out to an early lead -- made sure there would be no overtime heartbreak -- and improved to 2-4.
Staples scored just 1:40 into the game. Junior Luke Andriuk, who rotates between defense and time in the goaltender pads, skated on the blue line for the fourth time this season and scored his first high school goal, the first goal of the game.
"Going out there, playing goalie every day, you don't' expect to score," said Andriuk, whose primary position, until this season, was in goal.
Wehmhoff made it 2-0 on a goal set up by fellow sophomore Aaron Liu, who also assisted the first tally. Wehmhoff found the net again, unassisted for a 3-0 Staples lead in the second before Housatonic-Northwestern got on the scoreboard. But having their lead trimmed to 3-1 seemed to inspire the Wreckers, coach Ralph Unker said. Although the Wreckers had the better of the play in the first period, the coach believed his team was at its best from the second period on in this contest.
"Once they [Housatonic-Northwestern] started stepping up and competing, we kind of woke up," Unker said.
Senior captain Michael Zaken made it 4-1 on a net-finder set up by Wehmhoff and Liu, and Liu went from the role of playmaker to goal-scorer with a tally assisted by Wehmhoff and freshman defenseman Liam O'Leary for a 5-1 advantage.
In the third period, Wehmhoff registered the hat-trick with his third goal of the night, just 23 seconds into the period when he scored a shorthanded goal for a 6-1 cushion. After Housatonic-Northwestern scored to make it 6-2, Staples responded just 21 seconds later when senior Luke Garvey scored. Garvey tried to pass to Wehmhoff on a two-on-one break but the puck bounced off of a defender's skate and back to Garvey who found himself with a lot of net to shoot at and cashed in for a 7-2 lead.
Leading 7-3, the Wreckers struck for three late goals. Wehmhoff picked up a loose puck at the side of the net and roofed a shot from a sharp angle. Zaken and Liu earned the assists. Then O'Leary took a pass from Liu, made from behind the goal line, and buried a shot from the high slot for his first high school goal.
"I've been trying to get in on that," O'Leary said of joining the goal-scoring ranks. "I just let it go -- tried to keep it low."
O'Leary kept the shot low and it deflected off a defender and into the top corner of the net.
Wehmhoff earned the secondary assist on O'Leary's goal. Liu, assisted by Wehmhoff and Zaken, scored a five-on-three man-advantage goal to cap the scoring.
"Coming into the game we had a good feeling," said Unker, adding that like the Wreckers, Housatonic-Northwestern had a lot of player turnover from a year ago. "They're usually pretty good battles."
Staples has played Housatonic-Northwestern multiple times in the past few seasons. Unker believed the lopsided result and solid team effort was, in part, fueled by the overtime loss to Stamford the game before.
"It was really a heartbreaker for us," said Unker, adding that the Wreckers should have won the game. The coach said the Housatonic-Northwestern game was the team's best three period effort of the season.
"We definitely had low morale after that last loss. This is a great way to pick up our heads and hopefully it will carry over throughout the rest of the season," Zaken said.
Wehmhoff said he and linemates Liu and Zaken played well together and was pleased to get back into the win column. "It was a nice bounce back. It's putting us back on track," he said.
Staples sophomore goaltender Alex Skinner, who made 30 saves, said he was happy to have all of the goal-scoring support but believed his team could have done a better job keeping shots down. "When we're playing well I think we can be competitive," the goalie said.
Unker was particularly pleased with the play of Wehmhoff, whom the coach said played a great team game by setting up several scoring plays. He was also impressed with the play of the other point-getters, along with junior Jack Rosenberg and Skinner who made some key saves when the score was close.
"Hopefully the kids will keep up on the up-tempo style," Unker said.