Outscore opponent 16-0
by Than Acuff
The loss of four key players to injury did nothing to slow down the WEHA Wolverines as they cruised to two wins over the Foothills Flyers by a combined score of 16-0.
The question was: Would the team learn something from their jump into the big pond at a tournament in Colorado Springs the week before and translate that onto the ice in league play?
“I definitely think they did,” says head coach Joey Otsuka.
They put together a strong week of workouts leading up to the games and Otsuka made some adjustments to pre-game locker room protocol as well as their pre-game warm up on the ice, and all of that seemed to play out.
“We had a good week of practices, finalized some things, moved players around and that worked out,” says Otsuka. “The focus was definitely there and it showed. I saw a more accurate intensity on the ice.”
Everything was working for the Wolverines as they established puck possession early and held it throughout all three periods of the first game on Saturday, February 20.
Mid-way through the first period they executed a nearly flawless breakout and capped the play with a goal just as it was drawn up on the dry-erase board. After getting the puck wide up the boards, Colby Archuleta sliced through neutral ice to get a pass and carried the puck behind the Foothills net. Meanwhile, two Wolverines players set up in the slot and Archuleta found Gus Hensley wide open in the high slot and Hensley scored for a 1-0 lead.
“That’s, sort of, exactly what we practice,” says Otsuka. “It’s nice to see that pay off.”
Less than two minutes later the Wolverines won a face-off in the Flyers zone, established position in front of the net and Tristan Spezze poked a rebound past the Foothills goalie for a 2-0 lead.
Continued puck possession in the second period set up Walker Carroll for a tip goal off a shot by Ethan Shaw and the Wolverines added a fourth goal when high pressure on a penalty kill set up Jaroslav Pavlas for a quick wrist shot picking the low corner.
Lucas Solanik’s efforts up and down the ice set the hustle tone for the team and Pavlas struck again 12 minutes into the second period for a 5-0 Wolverines lead.
Sam Stepanek added a sixth goal on a power play early in the third period and Shaw and Carroll connected again for the Wolverines seventh and final goal.
While happy with the win, the job for the Wolverines was far from done. They are famed for playing well in the first game and dropping off in their second game, so Otsuka reminded them of one major goal for the team heading into the second game that day against Foothills.
“I told them that if we don’t see the same goal differential in the second game, they don’t see pucks on Monday,” explains Otsuka. “Everyone’s eyes constricted.”
The Wolverines stepped up to the challenge and maintained their supremacy in the second game of the day against the Flyers, skating to a 9-0 win. They opened the game on fire as Archuleta scored two goals in the first four minutes. The Wolverines added two more goals in a span of two minutes later in the first as Spezze and Pavlas each scored for a 4-0 lead.
Archuleta would go on to score two more goals in the game and Ethan Shaw, Danny Stoneberg and Hensley each added one goal apiece for the 9-0 win.
“The best thing to take away from the weekend was our consistency,” says Otsuka.
Otsuka also touted the efforts of Jacob Faison and Spezze, who he moved from defense to offense for the two games to see if there are additional options for the Wolverines play.
“They really did a good job with that,” says Otsuka. “It will be interesting to see what happens when we play a tougher team this weekend.”
The Wolverines finish the regular season on the road when they head to Glenwood Springs to play Yampa Mountain. They beat Yampa Mountain earlier in the season in Gunnison but Otsuka expects that when Yampa is on their home ice, they may have some new weapons on their bench.
“We’ll see. They may have some players that didn’t come to the game here,” says Otsuka. “It could be a totally different team.”
The Wolverines should enter the league playoffs the number one seed and while that bodes well for a league title, rosters of other teams tend to change for the post season.
“I’d like to see more of the same from our guys but who knows with this league who is going to show up,” says Otsuka.