Wreckers ice Black Knights in miracle OT finish
Updated 2:24 am, Friday, January 6, 2012
Hollywood couldn't have written a more improbable script on the ice.
For the Staples-Weston-Shelton co-op boys hockey team, the script couldn't have been any better -- not in its wildest dreams. For Stamford, the script couldn't have been any more nightmarish or disappointing.
Although Stamford (1-4-1) dominated for most of the game, which ended with a 50-22 shots on goal advantage and a 3-1 lead with less than a minute to play, it left Milford Ice Pavilion bitterly disheartened because host Staples (4-0) pulled out an unbelievable, 4-3 overtime victory.
"We didn't play Wrecker hockey for most of the game," Wreckers coach Ralph Unker said. "Stamford came out with intensity and took it too us."
Fern said, "They tried to clear it, I caught it and passed it to Forrest. We've been playing together for two years and work well together."
Things looked bleak for Staples when Black Knight senior Zach Fornacciari poked in a shot with 3:51 remaining in regulation. Freshman Brian Palmer and sophomore Justin Nizolek were credited with the assists.
Despite facing a two-goal deficit with time running out, Unker believed his team could pull it out.
"To be honest, I thought we could do it," Unker said. "We have the players, but in the first 44 minutes, we only played six minutes of hockey. We knew we were the better team and knew we could score against a team that has allowed a lot of goals this year. It was frustrating we couldn't put it together."
Stamford had many scoring opportunities with Fornacciari, senior CJ DiVaglio, juniors Andrew Tuccinardi and Cole Savona, Nizolek, sophomore Billy Santora and Palmer all pelting Wrecker senior captain goalie Riley MacDonald with many shots. Some came from point-blank range while others were zingers from the blue line. Much to the Black Knights' dismay, MacDonald (47 saves) constantly thwarted them with some impressive saves.
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"I tried to stay calm after I let in a goal and stay positive with the team," MacDonald said. "I tried to stay focused because I knew if I got the job done and kept them off the scoreboard as much as I could, we'd get the job done [on offense]."
Unker said, "Riley kept us in the game and stood on his head. He controlled the game."
With MacDonald out of the net and Staples using an extra skater, Stewart poked in a shot from senior Andrew Pfefferle with 35.2 seconds left to make it 3-2.
All the Black Knights had to do was hold on but they couldn't seal the deal. With 1.1 seconds left, Fern flung home a shot from 15 feet out off a feed from junior Liam O'Leary to tie it.
"I just got the rebound and it was bouncing," Fern said. "I just slapped it in and they were upset. When I shot it, I wasn't sure how much time was left, but when I looked at the clock, I said, `Oh my God, we could have lost this game.'"
Nizolek scored from Tuccinardi in the first period and Santora scored from outside the blue line in the second period to make it 2-0. Fern scored from Pfefferle with 48.3 seconds to go in the second period to make it 2-1.
One hurdle the Wreckers dealt with was the absence of senior captain Aaron Liu. Liu is the team's leading scorer and is out with a hairline fracture.
"If Aaron was in, it would have been a different game," Unker said. "He settles us down and controls the ice. He's our best player and helps with everything. We had to make adjustments against a scrappy Stamford team."
MacDonald said, "It would have been a different game with Aaron, but we all have to step it up without him."
Fern said, "Our team is good but we're not used to playing without Aaron. We all picked up the slack."
"It's a crazy win, and a game we wanted to win and we fought through a lot of adversity," MacDonald said.
All in a game that looked lost in a comeback that happens one in a million times.
"The way we were going, I didn't think it was possible, but we put it together," Savage said.