WILMINGTON – Through the first month of the season, the Wilmington High School boys' hockey team had yet to put a two-game win streak together. At home for the first time on Saturday, the 'Cats had a golden opportunity to do just that, while pick up some ground in both their quest for another state tournament bid as well as a little bit of breathing room between themselves and three other teams who are currently behind Burlington in the Middlesex League Freedom Division.
Unfortunately the 'Cats weren't able to get that second straight win, as sloppy and subpar play in the first two periods gave Stoneham a two-goal lead. Wilmington played terrific in the third period, but fell short, losing 3-2 to the Spartans.
"That's what we talked about last week, playing the complete game," said head coach Steve Scanlon. "We played today with two defensemen out with the flu and we knew we were going to be compromised, but in my mind, that stuff shouldn't be an excuse. Every team in the state has players hurt or out sick, so you need guys to step in and step up and I thought those guys did an OK job."
Wilmington scored just 52 seconds into the game, before the Spartans scored the game's next three goals, two coming before the end of the first, one more in the second.
"We came out well, but as soon as we scored, we stopped playing," said Scanlon. "Then we started to take undisciplined penalties by veteran players and then we are chasing the game."
Wilmington got on the board first as Peter Kourkoutas scored from the right side of the net. He put home a loose puck off a slap shot that missed the net and bounced off the back wall. Assists went to Riley Fitzgerald and Joe Hill.
Stoneham's Danny Storella scored a power play goal with 6:42 left and then his teammate Ty Foley added another one off a turnover in the 'Cats end coming with 3:24 left to take the 2-1 lead.
"Again (lack of) puck control continues to be a big issue," said Scanlon. "Execution is the players job – carrying a puck and catching a puck (is part of that). When eight of ten passes come off of your stick, it's time to try somebody else."
Stoneham scored another power play goal off the stick of Gavin Doherty coming with 9:38 left in the second to go up 3-1 and at that point they held a 16-13 advantage in shots.
In the third period, it was mostly all Wilmington. The 'Cats outshot the Spartans 16-6, which included a shorthanded goal coming 1:25 into the third as Christian Robarge put home a loose puck after the Stoneham goalie, Michael DelTrecco (27 saves) mishandled a long dump in.
Wilmington had two big chances to get back into the game with a power play coming with 11:12 left and then with 3:52 left, but 1:44 later the 'Cats were called for a penalty, coming away from the play. Wilmington was able to get possession in the Stoneham end, pulled goalie Anthony Cuozzo for the extra skater, making it 5-on-5, but couldn't convert, including a shot in the final second just missing the right hand corner, while DelTrecco made several big stops.
"We stormed the fort there late in the third period and we played good in the third but it wasn't enough," said Scanlon. "We almost got one on that last shot, but it's hard to chase the game when you are playing anybody, especially when you are giving away power play goals and they are on undisciplined penalties with a slashing and roughing."
Wilmington is now 4-4-1 overall and 2-3-1 in the league, which is the same mark as Melrose, while Wakefield is at 2-4-0 and Stoneham is now 1-4-0. All four teams trail Burlington, who are 5-1-0.
"It's a bad loss for many reasons – tournament purposes, a divisional game and it was a Sullivan (Rule) game," said Scanlon. "The kids knew what was coming. It's a bad loss and you have those over a 20-game schedule, but you can't undo it. We almost got it (the game tying goal) and it would have been great if we poked one in there late and ended up with a tie, but we didn't, so now we have to turn the page and move on.
"We don't play now until Thursday, so we'll have an extra day off so the guys who are nicked up, hopefully we can some time to heal up and we can get those guys back who have the flu."
Wilmington will be off until Thursday when they travel next door to face Shawsheen (5-4) at the Hallenborg Arena starting at 7:10 pm and that will be part of a four game-six day span, with home games against Arlington (5-1-1) on Saturday at noon, Pentucket Regional (1-5-0) on Monday at 2 pm and then Medford (5-3-1) on Wednesday night at 8:00 pm.
During Saturday's game, the WHS Hockey program honored the late Stephen Bowker, a big fan of the team, who lost his life this past summer due to Pancreatic Cancer. The team wore purple jerseys with 'Bowker' on the back in his honor and had a bake sale and t-shirts with all proceeds going to the Pancreatic Cancer Fund in honor of Bowker.
At the conclusion of the first period, his wife Janice and sons Anthony and Stephen Jr., the latter a member of the team from two years ago, were met by the captains and team on the ice and were given one of the team jerseys, with the No. 1 on it.
"This was great event for hockey and for the team," said Scanlon. "It was great to see a big crowd, make some money for the Pancreatic Cancer Fund. I know the event was important to the kids. The father was a big fan of the program, so we're glad we could host this event for the family."
LOCAL HEROES GAME
On Monday, the program will host another fundraising event, its annual 'Local Heroes', which supports and honors local military members and their families.
You may donate directly by bringing in wish items to the drop box. The following items are suggested as a need by the Local Heroes Organization: Cup-A-Soup, Pretzels, Raisins, Oatmeal/Granola Bars, Rice Krispy Treats, Flashlights, Batteries, Peanut Butter, Jelly, Twizzlers, Sunflower Seeds, Chex Mix, Beef Jerky, Toothbrush;
Also, Powdered Drink Mix, Coffee/Tea/Hot Cocoa, Sugar Packets, Creamer, Gum/Candy, Instant Oatmeal, Lip Balm, Shaving Cream, Mach-3 Razors, Stick Deodorant, Shampoo/Conditioner, Foot Powder, Ear Swabs, Mouthwash, Nail Clippers, Toilet Paper, Baby Wipes, Tissues, Hand/Foot Warmers, Sunscreen, Hand Sanitizer;
Also, Socks, Movies/DVDs, Crossword Puzzles, Playing Cards, Magazines/Books, Band-Aids, Feminine Products, Stationary, Hairbrush/Combs, Windshield Cleaner-Wipes, Phone Cards for International Use, Home Town Clothing, Footballs, Gloves, T-Shirts & Long Johns, package tuna fish, and hats.
Postage money (please make any monetary donations via check payable to Local Heroes).
All contributions and wish list items will be donated directly to the Wilmington Chapter of Local Heroes.