Williston opened the 2018-2019 season in style, beating the #11th ranked Avon Old Farms Winged Beavers on the road, 5-2. The matchup saw an array of new faces on the ice as graduation and underclassmen defections took its toll on both clubs in the offseason. On this day, it was the Wildcats who were able to find their identity and take the win.
Avon got on the board first at the 3:53 mark in the first period as forward Tim Heinke took a pass from winger, John Turner, and single-handedly entered the zone, split the Williston defense, and tucked in a nifty goal past new Williston goalie Kyler Breland from Drayton Valley, Alberta. The lead would not last however. Fielding a dump-in behind the net, Avon goalie Alex Aslanidis (a Providence recruit) was outworked for a puck by new junior Shaul (pronounced SHOW-el) Mitton of Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, who used his big 6’2, 175 frame to disrupt the play, gather the puck and make a pass from behind the left side of the net to returning (and wide open) sophomore David Novotny (Boca Raton, Florida) in the low slot who fired a low shot in the right corner tying the game at 1-1 at the 6:35 mark.
Senior Captain Tim Rego (Mansfield, MA) would break the tie on the power play at the 8:19 mark of the period when Hunter Sarro (North Attleboro, MA) worked hard in the corner for a puck, made a quick pass to Rego at the left point who let a quick rip go beating Aslanidis. Williston arms went up; Avon heads went down.
The lead was short-lived as Avon tied the game on a goal from John Tuner with assists to Nick Cyprian and Tyler Boucher in a scrum in front of Breland at the 10:50 mark.
Williston would take the lead for good at 16:37 when the pride of Western Mass and post-graduate from Pope Francis, Brendan Nehmer (East Longmeadow, MA) would net the first goal of his career on a shot from the slot that beat Aslanidis over the shoulder. Williston would enter the dressing room at the end of one, 3-2.
The second period was riddled with penalties including 5x3s for both squads. The first of the two was successfully killed off by an incredibly stingy Williston penalty kill unit. Within thirty seconds of the final penalty expiring, David Novotny collected a puck at his own blue line and drove down the ice on a 2 on 1 with new junior Tommy Harty (Billerica, MA) streaking toward the goal. Novotny looked off Harty and blasted a shot past Aslanidis for the fourth Williston goal and his second of the game. An interesting note is that last year as a freshman, Novotny did not see any time in the Avon game because the coaching staff did not feel he was “ready.” My, how a year can change things!
In the third period, Williston put the screws to Avon and did not allow any grade-A chances. Breland saw almost every shot and was up to the task on every Avon opportunity. You could see the Winged Beavers frustration because they could never get anything going offensively. Meanwhile, Williston put the final nail in the metaphorical coffin when senior Cam Mariani (Wilbraham, MA) took a pass from newcomer Jake Sacratini out of the left corner and let a low blast go; Aslanidis made a beauty kick save that landed on the stick of Nehmer in the slot who buried the puck into an open net for his second goal, solidifying the win. Avon had some good opportunities late but could not bury chances. When zeros hit the scoreboard, Williston took the win, 5-2.
The game puck went to Breland for his stellar play in goal and being the steady pillar the Wildcats needed, making 41 saves on the day. Aslanidis saved 26 of Williston’s 31 shots.
This year, the Wildcats return only seven players from last year’s playoff-bound club. Breland’s partner in nets is junior Trevor Corsello from Seldon, NY on Long Island.
Returning on defense with Rego is Alex Berg from Tampa Florida who has picked up where he left off last year as the steady, stalwart defenseman. Williston fans will notice the name Hansen on the blue line and may wonder if former Williston forward Brendan Hansen shot up six inches over the summer and switched positions. In fact, Hansen is playing at the University of Colorado at Boulder, while his younger brother Mitchell takes the reigns to live on the family name in Easthampton. New sophomore defensemen include Hunter Wilson of Westport, CT; Tyler Varin from Smithfield, RI; and Zac Gmerek from the greatest little city east of the Mississippi, Rochester, NY.
At forward, Williston returns five players. Seniors Cam Mariani, Hunter Sarro, and James Belleavoine (Smithfield, RI) look to carry some of the Williston scoring load this year and already have proven how much a year can change a player, while Sophomores David Novotny and Brandon Barrett (West Palm, FL) look to be contributors as well. The Williston faithful will also notice a number of new faces on offense this year. Along with Nehmer, post-grad Jack Purcell of Chicago, Il has already shown his worth with excellent penalty killing and leadership. The junior class will be well-represented with the likes of not only Mitton, Sacratini, and Harty, but also the workhorse and Portuguese Power, Matt Pimental from East Providence, RI. Sophomore Richard Stefanik (Whitehouse Station, NJ) rounds out the sophomore class and looks to hone his craft for the Lossone fans.
Behind the scenes of this year’s operation, the team will be in the hands of our willing and capable managers, senior Ethan Bradway (media and tech engineer) and sophomores Oscar Nguyen (hydration and statistics extraordinaire) and Lucas Boyd (sound and hype man).
The Wildcats will be led by 13-year coach, Derek Cunha. Dave Cunningham will be working with the defense and goalies while Kyle Hanford will try to harness the forwards.
Williston is back in action on Saturday night at 5 o’clock as the Salisbury Scarlet Knights come to town. Salisbury is a perennial power and is ranked number #1 in New England this year. Great seats are still available, so bring the family down for an exciting night of hockey.