For the first time in over thirty years, the Williston Wildcats took on the Avon Old Farms Winged Beavers yesterday in Easthampton. Avon came into Lossone vying to defend their 2017 Large-School New England Championship with hopes for a repeat, or better, an Elite 8 Championship in 2018. Unfortunately for them, their first win had to wait for another day as Williston took the game, 3-2.
Williston entered the tilt with some new faces as well as some fan-favorites from last season. The Wildcats are led by their captain, Sam Milnes from Middletown, RI. Milnes is entering his third season at Williston and is looking to build upon a successful 2016-2017 campaign. Other returners include seniors Kyle Caddo (Chester, NJ), Connor Canterbury (Eagle River, AK), Jacob Durocher (Rochester, MA), Billy Smith (Hyde Park, MA), Connor Power (Woburn, MA), Xander Rogers (Anaheim, CA); juniors, Greg Iverson (Brookfield, WI), Kevin Lassman (Parkland, FL), and Tim Rego (Mansfield, MA). Newcomers include post-graduates Logan Geisness (Waukesha, WI), Brandon McGill (Mequon, WI), and Cam Jefferson (Belmont, MA); senior, Cam Ziomek (Southampton, MA); juniors James Belleavoine (Smithfield, RI), Alex Berg (Oldsmar, FL), Cam Mariani (Wilbraham, MA), and Hunter Sarro (North Attleboro, MA); sophomore Ethan Agostoni (Pittsburgh, PA); and freshmen Brandon Barrett (Lake Worth, FL) and David Novotny (Boca Raton, FL). There is also a new face behind the bench for the ‘Cats this season, David Cunningham. Cunningham was a four-year goaltender at Amherst College from 2012-2016, winning the Bob Hanford Memorial Award as MVP during his sophomore year, and last year was a Hitchcock Fellow coaching hockey and baseball for the Mammoths. He currently teaches middle school English.
After killing off a highly suspect roughing penalty just ten seconds into the game, Billy Smith got the Wildcats offense going on Williston’s first shot of the game off a pass from James Belleavoine in the slot. Smith let it fly beating all six foot five inches of Avon goaltender Alex Aslandis low between the pads at 2:59 of the period. This appeared to rattle Aslandis who was making his first prep school start, as he took the remainder of the period to settle himself.
Later in the period, with two Williston defenders draped all over him, Avon defenseman Mac Wiseman took a pass and beat Xander Rogers for Avon’s first goal knotting the game at one-all at 7:41.
The tie was short lived as Cam Mariani let a soft backhander go in the high slot that butterflied over Aslandis left shoulder at 9:22 of the first period. Belleavoine and Connor Power were awarded the assists. Williston would enter the dressing room with a 2-1 lead. Shots for the period were 9-7 in favor of Williston.
The second period was all Avon as they tied the score at the 11:25 mark of the frame. The period was inconsistent and lacked flow with penalties marring much of the eighteen minutes. At about the midway point of the period, Williston took a hit to their personnel as Sam Milnes took a skate to the inner thigh and was forced to leave the game. He was taken to Cooley-Dickinson Hospital and left with nine stitches. Avon outshot Williston 11-3.
The final period was a flurry of madness as both sides battled hard to gain the lead, but it was the crafty center from Hyde Park who lifted Williston. Smith was able to beat Aslandis once again in front of the net. Cam Jefferson and Kevin Lassman got the helpers. Key blocked shots at the end of the period solidified the win for the Wildcats.
Xander Rogers played a flawless third period and ended the game making 25/27 saves.
Following the game, Billy Smith was awarded the game puck and led the squad in a boisterous rendition of “Sammy.”
Williston heads to Salisbury on Saturday evening for a tilt against the Scarlet Knights. You may remember that Williston beat Salisbury 6-1 last year and the newly-minted number one ranked club in New England is likely licking its chops for a rematch. See you in Connecticut.