By: Jack Caldwell
The Staples Wreckers boys’ ice hockey team picked up a pivotal point in Saturday’s 3-3 tie against Stamford/Westhill in Milford.
The 2-8-2 Wreckers are now looking to make a run at a playoff spot, with seven games left on their schedule. “Our ultimate goal is to make the playoffs,” Sam New ’18, Staples forward said. In order to accomplish that goal, the Wreckers needed to play a great game against a formidable adversary.
Tension was high Saturday night, with a rivalry brewing between the FCIAC opponents after last year’s matchup in the state championship, which Westhill won 5-4. Westhill forward Nick Rich ’18, who scored the state championship game-winner last season, tallied two goals against the Wreckers on Saturday, with all three Westhill goals coming on the power-play.
Rich faced New in almost every faceoff, with the players leaving their friendship off the ice. “Nick and I have been great friends since we played together on the same line for four years, he’s a great kid. I know him well enough that I could read some of his movements and throw him off his game,” New said.
The Wreckers found themselves trailing 3-1 late in the second period before New scored a power-play goal to bring the Wreckers within one. Evan Mancini ’17 of Weston High School, who opened the scoring with a first period goal, scored again for the Wreckers with 9:40 remaining in the third to even the score at 3-3. From that point on, Staples goaltender Zack Bloom ’18 shut down the Vikings, sending the game to overtime. “I couldn’t let those kids beat me again,” Bloom said.
With only a three minute intermission before the eight minute sudden-death overtime, players on both teams were feeling exhausted. “You know a lot of us were gassed,” New said, “We only ran two lines, so we had six forwards gasping for air on the bench.”
The Wreckers came out fast and aggressive, with New nearly ending the game on a breakaway shot saved by Westhill goaltender Christian Compolattaro ’17. However, the tides quickly turned at 4:46 when Robert Wehmhoff ‘18 surrendered a five-minute major penalty for making contact with an opponent’s head.
The penalty forced the Wreckers to play shorthanded for the remainder of the game, a scary situation considering all three goals they allowed came when they were shorthanded. Staples buckled down defensively, playing a gritty final minutes to keep the game tied. “I stayed out there for all eight minutes with Nick Rich and I’ll be the first one to tell you it was exhausting,” New said.
Although the end result was not a win, the game proved to be a morale-booster for Staples after a tough beginning to the season. “We would have loved to win that game, but they were a good team and it was a great tie,” Bloom said. “It showed our team’s character and it definitely got our morale up.”
The Wreckers now have 10 points this season, while Enfield is clinging onto the last playoff spot with eight points. With the Connecticut high school hockey playoff seeding being organized by power rankings rather than record, the Wreckers still remain outside the playoff picture, but are making a considerable case to be included.