“We had the will and possession to dictate the game early on”
by Than Acuff
The WEHA Wolverines boy’s hockey team cruised to a 4-1 win over Glenwood Springs on Sunday, February 7 to take sole possession of first place in the league standings with a record of 7-1-1.
Coach Joey Otsuka knew the matchup favored his team and he wanted to make sure they followed through with some key points in their game.
“The main thing was puck possession and Glenwood was stout in size so a lot of the plan was using our speed to get into really good offensive position,” explained Otsuka. “I also wanted to use the game as a good stepping stone to get some good chemistry going and I think we did all of that.”
The Wolverines play was deliberate, focused and composed all three periods and, once again, it paid off, this time earlier rather than later. Often the Wolverine train takes its time to get rolling with the pay off coming in the latter periods of the game.
“I don’t like them to come out hot,” said Otsuka. “I like a controlled, even game to start so we can ramp up when needed.”
On Sunday, the Wolverines managed to establish control early and built a 2-0 lead in the first period as Josh Wallin and Jordy Nichols each scored.
“We had the will and possession to dictate the game early on,” said Otsuka.
Wallin’s goal came five minutes into the game as he broke free up ice behind the Glenwood defensemen to take a pass from Ethan Shaw. Wallin carried the puck untouched to net and slipped the puck between the goalie’s pads for the 1-0 Wolverines lead.
“That was a great first goal,” said Otsuka. “It showed the team that we can score when we just simplify things also.”
Three minutes later, the effort of the Wolverines made all the difference as they set up in Glenwood’s zone and kept pressing. Glenwood looked to push the puck up the boards but Patrick Seifert cut off the breakout and found Nichols open above the face off circle with a quick pass. Nichols settled the puck, took one look and picked the upper corner with a wrist shot.
The Wolverines then stumbled a bit as penalties left them playing two men down midway through the first period. The Wolverines killed off the penalty, thanks in part to a couple big saves from Remy Zanotto, and held onto their two-goal advantage heading into the second period.
The Wolverines had the chance to blow the game wide open in the second period when a succession of Glenwood penalties gave the Wolverines a six-minute long power play. While they managed to get set up in Glenwood’s zone with the puck to run their power play offense, they failed to find the back of the net and were still sitting on a 2-0 lead heading into the third period.
“I think a big reason we didn’t score is we haven’t devoted a lot of work to our power play, but what I saw was fine,” said Otsuka. “We’re looking for hard goals, not easy goals, and Glenwood was doing a pretty good job of shutting things down in front of their net.”
Things turned a bit on the Wolverines as Glenwood opened the third period with a power play and proceeded to score, cutting into the Wolverines advantage. Typically that can steamroll into a tying goal and then a complete reversal of the game’s momentum, but the Wolverines remained poised and took back control of the game.
They rebuilt their two-goal lead in the fourth minute as Nichols and Seifert went to work again. The two players skated behind the Glenwood net to pressure the puck and Nichols came out of the scrap with the puck again, skated around the top of the face off circle and fired his second goal of the game just inside the far post for a 3-1 Wolverines lead.
“The kid got a haircut and just showed up and scored two goals,” said Otsuka. “The biggest thing we talked about after the game is the chemistry Colby (Archuleta), Patrick and Jordy had.”
With Glenwood’s comeback bid sufficiently quashed, the Wolverines continued their focus on puck possession and fired off one last goal as Jacob Faison took a pass from Seifert and rifled a shot on net that bounced off the post and into the net to finish off the 4-1 win.
“Jacob’s goal was a nice goal, it was straight from what we’ve been doing in practice,” said Otsuka. “The game was a small step in the right direction and a good stepping stone toward the upcoming tournament.”
The Wolverines will now move from the smaller pond of the CPYHL league and into the bigger pond this weekend as they head to Colorado Springs for a President’s weekend double AA level tournament that will demand a higher caliber of play from the Wolverines.
“It’s going to be some of the best hockey any kid from Gunnison County will see,” said Otsuka. “Our goalies need to be huge, we need to take care of the little things, make sure we’re in the right place to support teammates. They know where they need to be, it’s all about that square foot between their ears.”
They return to league play and look to extend their five-game winning streak when they host Foothills in Gunnison on Saturday, February 20 with games at 12:15 and 6:15 p.m.