Sometimes a team can want a win so badly, it can lead to three straight losses.
Such was the case of the New Canaan ice hockey team, which fell into a three-game depression after losing a 3-2 lead with 5:00 left during a 6-4 setback against Ridgefield last Wednesday.
“That Ridgefield game was a heart-breaker,” senior forward Tyler Manchuck said. “I think the next two games was a hangover from that game.”
Just in time, the Rams found the perfect remedy in the form of a banged-up and uninspired Staples team.
Manchuck and fellow senior Jack Stanton each recorded hat tricks as New Canaan got back on a winning track with a runaway 8-2 victory over the Staples-Weston-Shelton co-op Wednesday night at the Darien Ice Rink.
Jake Granito and Zeph West also scored goals while sophomore Spencer Manchuck tallied three assists for the Rams, who out-shot the Wreckers 21-0 in the first period and led 4-0 at the intermission.
New Canaan, which also got tripped up against the Fairfield co-op (5-4) and Trinity Catholic (4-3 in OT) during its three-game skid, took a 5-0 lead 32 seconds into the second period and finished with a 43-9 advantage in shots.
New Canaan, the two-time defending FCIAC champion, is now 9-6-1 overall and very much alive for a berth to the conference playoffs.
“I think we really flourished out there today, and our team really needed that for our morale,” Manchuck said. “We had a big 40-minute talk with our coach (Bo Hickey) before the game. We were down to rock bottom before that. But we flourished out there, and I think this will get us back to the top.”
The Wreckers were missing six key players due to injury, including leading scorer Aaron Liu, who could be out another two weeks with a broken ankle, and starting goalie Riley McDonald. Staples also lost one of its top defensemen when Andrew Pfefferle walked away from the team a few weeks ago.
That forced Staples to put eight underclassmen in the starting lineup. Some took advantage of the ice time, including freshman Johnn Mendillo, who scored both goals for the Wreckers. Sophomore goalie Jeff Burns made 35 saves in his first career start, allowing four goals over the final two periods after getting burned for four in the first.
Unfortunately, many of the Wreckers didn’t bring the same passion, and Staples paid with its seventh straight loss.
“I expect more from my guys,” said Staples head coach Ralph Unker, whose son A.J. is a first-line forward for Fairfield Prep. “They have to understand, it’s a 45-minute game and you have to play hard every second you’re on the ice. If you have a bad shift, that’s one thing. But you can’t just give away the first period and expect to win.”
New Canaan goalie Chris Koennecke needed to make just seven saves to post the victory. The Wreckers didn’t record a shot on goal until Zach Speed was stopped on a breakaway with 12 minutes left in the second period. By that time, it was 5-0.
“All I ask my kids to do is compete, and I don’t think we did that in the first period,” Unker said. “New Canaan was ripe for the picking, and we gave them the first period.”
New Canaan received seven points from its sophomore class with Harry Stanton and Peter Reinhardt each collecting two assists. Dylan Hart, Puck Richardson and Chip Glover also had assists for the Rams while Forest Savage had a helper for the Wreckers.