Trailing by a goal with just over five minutes to play, the Staples-Weston-Shelton co-op boys hockey team could see its state tournament hopes slipping away.

The Wreckers, however, scored twice less than a minute apart and went on to defeat Greenwich 5-3 at Milford Ice Pavilion Wednesday. With the win, Staples raised its record to 8-11, and clinched a spot in the Division II state tournament with one game to spare (the Wreckers host Cheshire tomorrow at 8 p.m. at Milford Ice Pavilion).

Going into the second period, the game was tied, 2-2. Staples nearly took an early-period lead, but Aaron Liu narrowly missed high on a shot. The Cardinals picked up the puck, and Brett Backman scored on the ensuing rush for a 3-2 GHS edge only 43 seconds into the stanza.

After several chances were stopped, the Wreckers finally drew even when Liam O'Leary scored with 5:19 to play in the game. Only 56 seconds later, Liu skated down the left side and spotted fellow captain Forrest Savage in the high slot. He passed to Savage who unleashed a go-ahead wrist shot goal.

"The guys picked me up," said Staples goaltender Riley Macdonald, adding that he would love to have Greenwich's go-ahead scoring play back. Macdonald, however, did make 21 saves -- including a big one from in close to preserve the lead with a little more than two minutes remaining.

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With 1:51 to play, the Wreckers got an insurance tally when Eric Zurmuehle's pass toward the goal mouth deflected in off a defender.

"I think we were getting a lot of odd-man rushes. We were just putting together some nice passes and, luckily, we were able to bury the puck," Liu said.

Savage and Wyatt Fern accounted for the first two Staples tallies as the teams traded second-period goals.

The Wreckers had a feeling of relief and excitement following their biggest win of an injury-riddled season.

"It was probably the most important game of the season. We needed to step it up in the third period. We had a whole team effort," Savage said.

After mustering a total of 13 shots in the first two periods combined, the Wreckers needed to turn things up a notch. Staples' coaches stressed to the players that they needed to get more shots to the net. The team had 11 shots in the third.

"It made a big difference in the end," Wreckers coach Ralph Unker said. "It was good to see the boys really come together in the third period and do what we needed to do."

Missing the playoffs was unacceptable for Staples.

"If we didn't get in, that would have been very disappointing," said Unker, whose team has been without six of its 15 players for extended periods of time ranging from six to 17 games each.

Andrew Pfefferle, Fern and O'Leary were all sidelined for six games; Macdonald missed eight; Liu was scratched for 14; and Lucas Hazan was lost for the entire season early on. "It's hard to fire the cannon if you've got no ammo," Unker pointed out.

That ammo - namely high-scorers Liu and Savage -- has been back in recent games and the team looks good when healthy and at full or close to full strength.

Staples has limped through the campaign -- enduring a 10-game losing streak after a 6-1 start. The Wreckers won their second straight game, and with players coming back from injuries just in time - it looks as if the team could be a dangerous in the postseason. Unker and his players believe they can make a run, and will be a tough out for opposing teams.

"Once we get to the tournament everyone has the same record," Unker said. "We're really looking forward to it."

MacDonald added, "I think we're really meshing well right now, and I think we're going to make a deep run."

The Wreckers were the No. 2 seed and got all the way to the D-III finals before falling last winter. The team stepped up to D-II this campaign.

"I think we have a good chance," Savage said.

Liu said, "I know we can make a run. There's definitely going to be some tough competition."