NORWALK—Two programs heading in opposite directions met on Monday at the SoNo Ice House.
The Weathersfield-Middletown-Rocky Hill-Plainville co-op continued its climb up the standings with a 3-0 win over Norwalk-McMahon, which suffered its third straight loss.
WMRP has given up just one goal in its last three games while Norwalk-McMahon has only scored one over that same span.
“Truth be known, our leading scorer and third-leading scorer were out today,” said WRMP coach Dennis Tulimieri, who is in his 31st year behind the Eagles’ bench, the last six of which have been co-op. “We put the next guy up kind of thing and they did really well.”
Chase Millen staked the Eagles to a 1-0 lead in the first period and Ben Mroczka and Cole McNamara added tallies in the second period to account for all the scoring.
Andrew Albano, Luke Reynolds and Cole McNamara were credited with assists.
Everything else was about WMRP’s defense, which pitched its second shutout of the season.
“They’re playing a nice system,” Tulimieri said of his blueliners, calling out Cam Partridge, Riordan Mertens, Andrew Cascio and Braydon Mertens for their play.
“Of course what helps is when the forwards come back and back check,” the coach added. “Our defense is pretty skilled, but they can really do their job when the forwards come back and help out.”
Partridge said he and his fellow defenseman simply have a trust in one another and goaltender Jake Peckrul that helps bond them.
“It started from the first practice,” Partridge said. “Everybody just works together and we came together. We all trust each (other) and we get mentally prepared and it shows.”
LONG TIME COMING
The Norwalk-McMahon co-op squad took so long to get its ice legs beneath them for Monday’s matinee game that there was 10:51 left on the clock when it finally got its first shot on goal.
In the second period, that is.
“That’s a pretty scrappy team and they’ll muscle their way into doing some damage, so I was pleased with our defensive effort in that first period,” Tulimieri said.
Norwalk-McMahon finally got five shots on goal off during that second period while adding four more in the third.
The squad’s slow start has just been part of the problem during the team’s losing streak.
“We’ve been coming out slow, which is not good,” Norwalk-McMahon coach Kyle Wehmhoff said. “We’re getting our chances. We just have to put the puck into the net.”
As if it were only that simple, that is.
In that second period, after Norwalk-McMahon broke the ice, Kevin Remson was point-blank at the goalmouth and slammed a pair of shots at Peckrul, who came up big both times.
Then, in the third period, Norwalk-McMahon had a chance to turn the game around with a breakaway in the first minute of play and a two-on-one opportunity minutes later.
Remy Gibson’s chance alone was stoned by Peckrul (9 saves) while the Jeb Boyrer-to-Cory Acevedo set-up sailed high over the bar.
“Players just need to start bearing down on their chances,” Wehmhoff said. “I think it starts at practice really. That’s all it is. We just need to bear down and find a way.”
TO THE MAX
The reason Norwalk-McMahon stayed in the game for as long as it did was the play of first-year varsity goalie Max Vittuci.
The tall backstop made 10 saves in the first period and 15 in the second before finishing the day with 35 stops.
“Max is standing on his head, no doubt,” Wehmhoff said.
WMRP 3, NORWALK McMAHON 1
WMRP 1 2 0—3
N-BM 0 0 0—0
Records: WMRP 4-4, Norwalk-McMahon 3-6; Goals: WMRP-Chase Millen, Ben Mroczka, Cole McNamara; Assists: WMRP-Andrew Albano, Luke Reynolds, Connor McNamara); Goalies: WMRP: Jake Peckrul (9 saves); N-BM: Max Vittuci (35 saves).