Staples hockey defeats Wilton in FCIAC opener
Despite squandering a lengthy two-man advantage late in the second period with a 3-2 lead, the Staples/Weston/Shelton hockey team refused to let the missed opportunity spoil the rest of the contest.
Instead, what resulted in a turbo-charged third period was a four-goal outburst and a multitude of key saves at the right moments.
Jack Mendillo fired a hat trick and Ian Offenberg and Derek Nussbaum each had a goal and had two assists as the Wreckers (3-3) improved to .500 with a 7-4 win over Wilton on Wednesday evening at the Milford Ice Pavilion. The Warriors (0-4-2) remained winless on the season.
"This team is well conditioned and what we said between the second and third periods we all agreed that we came out strong in the first period," Wreckers coach Todd Sharinn said. "In the third period we just had to step it up, make it happen and I'm proud of them."
The Wreckers got goals from Ryan Johnson and Jesse Greenspun 39 seconds apart early in the third period to push their lead to 5-2 with 12 minutes remaining. Wilton responded with two quick goals of its own midway through the period to pull to within 5-4, but Mendillo completed his hat trick on the power play with four minutes left to give Staples a 6-4 edge.
"(Wilton) buried a few and it was a close game for a while," Mendillo said. "Our team was still pretty replaxed and focused on our game plan and did the stuff that makes us a great team."
Nussbaum added an empty net goal with 44 seconds left to clinch the win for the Wreckers, who have scored four goals in four of their six games this season. Mendillo has scored three goals in all three home games for Staples.
"There's something about this rink, I don't know what it is," Mendillo said. "I enjoy playing here and I like the ice, but it's all because of my teammates. Playing with derek Nussbaum and Eric Zurmuehle; they're a big reason why I'm having success."
Staples netminder Will Englehart (20 saves) made a crucial stop towards the end of the second period on a shorthanded breakaway by the Warriors. The save helped send Staples into the locker room on a positive note after missing out on an insurance goal.
"It was huge," Mendillo said of the stop. "Things like that; it's not always goals that change the momentum. It's sometimes an individual putting in a lot of effort like that and it speaks to what kind of team we have."
Mendillo scored his team's first two goals to give Staples a 2-0 lead before Wilton's Joey Cullinan scored a pair -- bridging the first and second periods -- to tie the game. Offenberg's goal midway through the second period put the Wreckers up for good.
Next up for the Wreckers is a visit to Stamford Saturday. Face off time is 3:10 p.m. After winning its conference opener Wednesday, Staples is hopeful the momentum can carry over into upcoming contests.
"Slowly but surely the momentum is building," Sharinn said. "We're not going to look too far ahead of ourselves but this team has really gelled."