The Staples-Weston-Shelton co-op boys hockey team inched closer to a Division II playoff berth with a 6-0 road win over East Catholic.

Staples raised its record to 7-11, and it now needs to win one of its last two games after its victory at Champions Skating Center in Cromwell. East Catholic dropped to 5-10-1.

The Wreckers were buoyed by the return of senior captain Aaron Liu and junior Wyatt Fern, and broke their 10-game losing streak. This was the second game back for senior captain goalie Riley MacDonald, and senior defenseman Andrew Pfefferle.

MacDonald shut out the Eagles, and had 38 saves in Staples' 6-3 loss Ridgefield (17-2), the third-ranked Division I team, Saturday.

"Having all of our guys back makes a difference, and it was a lot more fun on the bench," Wreckers coach Ralph Unker said. "We now have three lines, four defensemen, and our All-State goalie, which makes a huge difference. We held a top team [Ridgefield] to six goals."

Liu, who missed 14 games because of a hairline fracture, scored three goals, and gave Staples a 1-0 lead with 1:56 remaining in the first period from the left slot. Freshman Jack Mendillo set up Liu, and was credited with the assist.

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Although Liu had a hat trick, he wasn't 100 percent pleased with his performance.

"It feels great to be back," Liu said. "I haven't practiced in awhile, and I was slow. I hope to practice, get back in shape and be ready."

Mendillo and Liu scored in the second period with 8:15 and 6:15 left, respectively. Senior captain Forrest Savage assisted on both goals, and Pfefferle was credited with a helper on Liu's tally.

East Catholic tried to battle back and pelted MacDonald in the second and third periods. Overall, the Eagles outshot the Wreckers, 36-24, 13-9 in the second period and 16-6 in the third period.

MacDonald (36 saves) was equal to the task, and robbed East Catholic a few times. He made a diving save while his team was killing a penalty.

"The guys did an amazing

The guys did an amazing job in front of me, and limited them to low-quality shots," MacDonald said. "It feels great to be back. I knew we needed two more wins to make states, and I did what I needed to do."

Pfefferle, junior Liam O'Leary and sophomores Eric Zurmuehle and Owen Engeldrum made the plays on defense for Staples.

The Wreckers put the game away in the third period. Savage scored two goals, the first one where he raced down the ice, and flicked it in. He closed out the scoring off a helper from Mendillo.

"I used my speed to go down on the right side, and I was able to deke the goalie," Savage said.

Liu scored the other goal from Savage and Mendillo, with the former finding him in front of the net.

"It's thanks to Forrest and Jack," Liu said. "They fed me, and I put it in."

Savage said, "Aaron was always in good position before he got hurt, and when he came back, it was only natural to pass it to him. We're a much better team with Aaron back."

Unker said, "Seeing Aaron, Forrest and Jack work together again lifted the whole team."

Staples hosts Greenwich today at 4 p.m. and Cheshire Saturday at 8 p.m. at Milford Ice Pavilion.

"We came into the game [against East Catholic] on a roll, and we hope to come out more polished against Greenwich," Unker said. "I anticipate a good showing, and with all the seniors back, I anticipate a good showing. We're looking to extend the season."

Savage said, "Riley has made a big difference since he came back. We're playing like we did at the beginning of the season with our whole team back."