by Nate Gordon’16
The Wildcats defeated the Canterbury Saints 4-2 on Saturday, November 23, 2013, to pick up a big road victory in the first game of the season. This win was critical for setting the tone before getting a week off for Thanksgiving break.
As Coach Cunha said before the game, “We only worry about playing today. But I tell you right now that if you guys want to be playing in March, these two points are very important…For the next two hours, you are dialed in to this rink, to this locker room, to these guys that are around you.”
The Wildcats had control of the puck in their offensive zone for much of the first period. Just three minutes into the game, a Canterbury defensemen was sent to the penalty box for hooking. This was the first of eleven total penalties in the game. Williston had many opportunities on this power play, including a shot that got past the Canterbury goaltender, but slid just inches wide of the goal post.
Senior forward Max Willman put Williston on the board with just under nine minutes left in the first period. He skated down the left side of the rink, put a move on the goalie, and scored. The goal was assisted by junior forward Brandon Borges.
With five minutes left in the first period, Williston was called for a hooking penalty while a Canterbury player was on a breakaway. This gave the Saints their first real scoring opportunity. Senior Williston goalie Tim Nowacki saved a backhand attempt by the Canterbury player. This was just one of 35 saves Nowacki had in the game.
Nowacki said after the game that “it’s a good first game of the season, obviously, on the road, it’s always tough to do. It felt great, we jumped on them early, that was really important. From there, we just kept on rolling.”
With three minutes left in the period, junior forward Will Flynn added to Williston’s lead when he scored off of a rebound of his own shot. The goal was assisted by junior forwards Tyler Scroggins and Justin Lindsay.
During the first intermission, Coach Cunha told the team, “When we score a goal, yeah, we get excited, but then we lock it right back down in terms of the focus. We can’t get too high when we score a goal, or too low when we give up one. We go even keel and negate the highs, negate the lows.”
The first intermission ended up taking half an hour due to a Zamboni malfunction. However, this did not seem to affect either team noticeably in the second period.
Canterbury started the second period on the power play, one of six the Wildcats killed in the game.
With just under 15 minutes to play in the second period, the Wildcats increased their lead to three. Junior forward Jack Gethings had the puck in the corner of Williston’s offensive zone when he passed it to senior defensemen Seth Cupak, who unleashed a wrist shot from the slot, which netted the puck.
The Wildcats thought they had scored a fourth goal with under two minutes in the period when the puck found its way to the back of the net. The referees, though, said the puck was kicked in by a Williston player.
Coach Cunha told his team to stay focused in the last period and to close out the game. “You’ve won the first period, you won the second. Win the third period, win the hockey game. It’s as easy as that. Do not give them a sniff to think that they are in this hockey game. Finish what you started,” said Cunha.
Although, the Wildcats lossed the third period 1-2 in goals, the team had done enough in the first two period to never let the game become truly close. Cupak said after the game, “It felt really good [to get the win], we came out strong in the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd. Second and first we came out real good, third was a little flat.”
Three goals were scored with less than 2:10 left in the game. At 2:01, Canterbury senior forward Connor Henry netted a rebound. With 48 seconds left, Williston forward Kyle Hall scored an unassisted empty-net goal. Then, with 2.5 seconds left, Cantebury freshman Mathieu Gervais poked the puck into the goal with many bodies in front of Williston’s net.
Ultimately, Canterbury was never able to control the puck in Williston’s defensive zone. The Saints’ scoring opportunities came off odd-man rushes in transition.
Coach Cunha said after the game that “we gave ourselves enough wiggle room. With that effort [in the 3rd period], I hope it leaves a little bit of a sour taste in our mouths, knowing that we did not finish on a good note. That you’re just itching to get back here and get even better.” You guys can be good, you guys can be very good this year.”
After the team gets back from the Thanksgiving break, it will begin a four game home stand, starting with Kimball Union Academy on Wednesday, November 4th.
Player of the Game: Goalie Tim Nowacki-35 saves (.945 save %)
Note: My apologies for not tweeting updates during this game. I was unable to connect to the Canterbury rink Wi-Fi. I will have this figured out for the team’s next game.