Varsity Hockey wins season opener in outlandish fashion

Varsity Hockey wins season opener in outlandish fashion

Hockey is officially back and the joint Waubonsie/Metea Warriors’ Hockey Club is gearing up for another run at a state championship. After losing in the United Center in the state finals last year, the #11 ranked team came out hungry on Friday night against #9 Wheaton West. In a game with a plethora of penalties including a 7:00 penalty against the Warriors in the third, it was tight throughout. Wheaton was up by one very late in the game until junior Zach Pearce tied the game at 3-3 with six seconds left. The team won in a close shootout, becoming 1-0 on the season in a big test.

Early in the game, the top teams were evenly matched. The first period saw about a 50/50 split of possession. It wasn’t until the end of the first where a Wheaton West penalty set up a power play for the Warriors. Continuing the play in the top of the second, Waubonsie junior Will Troy found the back of the net.

The second period and the rest of the game was a battle of penalty kills. Minutes after Troy’s opening goal, Wheaton West got one past Howard on their own power play to tie the game. Then just three minutes later, they scored again to go up 2-1. Then a Metea duo went to work, senior Jack Flood’s shot went off the pad of the goalie, but senior Will Naffziger got the rebound in, 2-2.

Intensity levels increased in the third and the game got chippy. A hit from behind and a few scuffles lead to a seven-minute power play for Wheaton West with only ten minutes to go in the tied game. Things felt grim for the Warriors, but they kept composed during the penalty kill. “The guys on our penalty kill are the hardest working guys on the team,” coach Dombro said. With 2:33 remaining, the Warriors got their own power play. But a miscue on a pass ended up in a one on one and a go-ahead goal for Wheaton.

The Warriors pulled their goalie and tried to get a swift tying goal. It all came together with six seconds remaining. Zach Pearce put one through the goalie’s legs to equalize it and send it to a shootout. The goal came at a point in the game where you aren’t sure how to feel.

“We went out there, we said never a doubt,” Pearce said. First-year head coach Jeremy Dombro had different thoughts going in. “The goal with 6 seconds left was crazy. At that point I figured it was a long shot, we were killing a penalty and we got the puck to the net and banged home a rebound,” he said.

Then came the shootout, and three players from both teams shot. A Will Troy goal and three saves by goalie Justin Howard came in and the referees blew the whistle. Both teams headed to the locker room, the Warriors celebrating their first win of the season.

Then came a little more drama. The referees came to the locker rooms after the game. After checking the rulebook, they said that both teams needed to shoot two more times to follow the five-man shootout rule. “It’s a situation that I’ve never been in,” head coach Dombro said. “Let’s go just finish what we started,” he said to his team.

A whirlwind of emotions, the teams kicked the adult league that had been waiting to play off the ice and went out to finish their shootout. Part two of the shootout looked no different and Howard came up with two more saves to close out the game. Warriors won 4-3 (1-0 in the shootout). “It was a bit surprising and disappointing, but we still had faith in our goalie,” Pearce said.

The team also played Lincoln Way on Sunday, losing 4-3. They face off in a rematch of last season’s state semi-finals against Glenbard next Sunday at All Seasons, at 4:50 p.m.