Staples boys hockey advances to Division III quarterfinals
Updated 11:24 pm, Monday, March 9, 2015
Games between No. 8 and No. 9 seeds in any tournament are usually close contests between two evenly matched teams. That was the case on Monday night at the Milford Ice Pavilion as Staples-Weston-Shelton and Barlow battled it out in the first round of the Division III state tournament.
Despite the lack seniors on their roster and blowing a three-goal lead, the Wreckers dug deep and exhibited composure far beyond their inexperience to pull out a win and extend their season.
Freshman Sam New's tip-in with 18.9 seconds left sent Staples to a dramatic 4-3 win over the Falcons. The Wreckers will take on Top-seeded E.O. Smith/Tolland co-op on Thursday in the quarterfinals at a time and place to be determined.
"I was trying to get my stick in the lane," New said. "(Johnson) threw it to me and found my stick; it was a great play."
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The goal spared the blushes for the Wreckers, who nearly had their season end. The third period was played at a fast pace and included multiple chances for both sides. The Falcons hit the crossbar and Wreckers goalie Zack Bloom (28 saves) made a quick glove save to prevent a goal.
"I attribute a large part of our win in the third period to Bloom," Staples coach Todd Sharinn said. "He really stepped it up; I was proud of him for persevering."
The Falcons (12-9), who played an almost exclusive Division-III schedule this winter, trailed 3-0 early in the second period before Kyle Converse converted a chance in front of the net. Less than two minutes later, the Falcons cashed in on a power play to pull to within a goal.
Barlow sophomore Billy Berry tied the game with 2:18 left in the second, sneaking the puck between Bloom's legs.
"We had a lot of opportunities in the first period that just didn't go our way," first-year Barlow coach Bob Stearns said. "Banging that first goal in (was important), it was kind of an ugly goal. Sometimes that's all you need it lit a spark and it motivated us and we started crashing the net."
The third Falcons goal set the stage for a tense third period, which began with 1:50 of power play time for Barlow. The Wreckers killed off the threat and the two teams exchanged chances before New had the final say.
"Of course we were nervous because it was do or die," New said. "But we weren't that nervous because we felt like we could beat them. It took a while but we kept our focus throughout the third."
Staples kept the puck in the Barlow zone for the final sequence, with Jesse Greenspun winning a crucial faceoff that led to New's goal.
Staples (12-9) took a 2-0 lead into the first intermission. Freshman Ryan Purgay opened the scoring with 4:46 remaining before New shook off a defender and finished with seconds remaining in the first. RJ Gupta scored 1:39 into the second period to give Staples a 3-0 lead.
The Wreckers now face a taunting task in the quarterfinals against E.O. Smith, which boasts a 19-2 record and has demolished most of the Division III teams it has faced.
"What would be the point of playing it was decided ahead of time," Sharinn said. "I think we have a very good chance."