Staples Co-Op beats Wilton in wild finish
The Staples-Weston-Shelton boys ice hockey team spent most of the third period in its own zone, clinging to a tie with host Wilton.
Sophomore goalie Zack Bloom kept the Wreckers alive, and once they were given a power play late in the period they took full advantage.
Ryan Johnson fired a hat trick -- including two goals in 19 seconds in the third -- sending Staples to a wild 5-4 win over Wilton at Winter Garden Ice Arena.
On the man advantage with 4:40 left in the third, Johnson followed up his own shot through a crowd in front of the net, flipping the puck past Wilton goalie Kyle Buckley. On the ensuing faceoff, the Wreckers got pressure and Johnson was there again to double Staples' lead before Wilton could blink.
"(Johnson) is one of those players; he's a game-changer," Staples coach Todd Sharinn said. "He has tremendous hands and great skating skills. He has the heart the size of a six-foot-five player; he's a natural leader and leads by example."
Ned Zawislak scored on the power play for Wilton with 1:30 left to give his team hope, but 31 seconds later Sam New scored an empty net goal from his own zone and appeared to seal the win.
"We wanted to try to tie the game and decide it in (overtime)," Wilton coach Brett Amero said. "(We) don't like to lose. ... We were inconsistent (tonight)."
But the Warriors struck again, with Luke Rizzo giving the Warriors one more chance with 22 seconds left with a goal. Kyle Jonas (two goals) had a look as the horn sounded, but couldn't corral the puck and the Wreckers exhaled.
"(Bloom) was phenomenal tonight," Sharinn said. "This was the best game I've seen him play. He played big, he came out of the net, and he controlled his crease. He did a great job controlling rebounds and I'm very proud of his play tonight."
Wilton had the better of the play in the opening period, with only Bloom preventing the Warriors from taking a lead into the locker room. Defensive zone turnovers hurt the Wreckers, who took a 1-0 lead against the run of play when Jesse Greenspun whacked a shot into the top corner of the next.
The Wreckers had the lead for just 82 seconds, as Jonas converted a chance in front to draw Wilton level.
Johnson gave Staples a 2-1 lead in the second, lifting a backhanded shot from a tight angle into the roof of the net. Jonas worked a give-and-go with Jameson Hill to get Wilton back on even terms with 6:52 left in the second period.
Wilton dominated the first 15 minutes of the third, firing shot after shot at Bloom to no avail.
"It's frustrating when you can't put them in and disheartening when (Staples) gets an opportunity and finish," Amero said. "That was the difference in the game; they were able to finish when they had opportunities."
Despite an inconsistent effort, the Wreckers came away with a crucial FCIAC win.
"Wilton is a good team, they probably had as equally a bad night as we did," Sharinn said. "Anybody could have won this one. ... I'll take an ugly win over a pretty loss any day of the week."
The Wreckers are next in action on Saturday against Stamford at Milford Ice Pavilion.