Even with the buzzing lights and cool rink air of Durham’s Whittemore Center, the atmosphere in the stands was anything but frigid as Oyster River supporters prepared themselves for the beginning of the Boys’ Hockey Team’s home opener on the night of Monday, December 18th.
The Bobcats faced off against the Goffstown Grizzlies, resulting in an exciting game full of back-and-forth play. Players, fans, and coaches alike were kept on the edge of their seats for three eventful periods, which ended with a 4-2 win for Bobcats at the final buzzer, making their record 1-0 and setting the team up with hopes of success for the upcoming season.
“I think [the game] was great for us. We hadn’t played a game in almost two weeks so it was nice to get the first win under our belts, and it was also nice to see how we worked as a team. We are building off of our experience from every game so hopefully our next game will be better than the last,” said co-captain Ethan Keslar (‘18).
Agreeing with Keslar was first-year coach Peter Harwood, noting, “I was happy with the overall effort and the win. We hadn’t played a game since Dec 2nd, and it showed.” Harwood continued however, adding, “it’s tough to go two weeks without playing a game. I was just pleased that we only took two penalties and that we scored on two of our power plays.”
Scoring one of four goals for the Bobcats in their victory was Shane O’Connell (‘19). “After this win I have a lot of confidence in the team; I think we’ll have a lot of success this year if we continue to work on our weaknesses in practice. Once we get past the first few games I think we will start to connect more passes and score more goals,” he said.
However for the time-being, it appeared as the team had little trouble scoring. Their first goal came from co-captain and defenseman Zach Leichtman (‘18) with 1:31 left in the first, following two close shots by fellow captain Will Cilia (‘18).
In the second period, Goffstown started to pull ahead, scoring two goals in a matter of five minutes, but the Bobcats quickly reassured fans of their control, responding with two quick goals in under three minutes by O’Connell and Samuel Davies (‘18).
Fans, such as Jack Bishop (‘19), are hopeful that goals will continue to be plentiful throughout the season, noting, “I think what makes the team fun to watch is seeing friends making big hits and scoring goals… I’m definitely excited to go to more games.”
This excitement was certainly plentiful throughout the game, with several strong opportunities at goal from Goffstown, which even included the team pulling their goalie in the last minutes of the third period.
These efforts went unrewarded however, as on the defensive side of things, the the Oyster River boys also seemed to dominate the puck. Goalie Nick Milano (‘19) made major saves on Goffstown breakaways in both the second and third periods, as well as getting fortunate when a shot rebounded off the right post in the first.
Defenseman Ben Caron (‘19) also played a major role in the night’s win, narrowly missing a slap-shot in the second period, and bullying a Grizzly off the puck in what looked to be a certain goal-scoring opportunity late in the third.
Despite the victory, the team still looks for improvement after last year’s 9-9-1 (W-L-D) record and this year’s 1-2 (W-L) record in preseason scrimmages.
“So far I feel that the team is looking good. We have a lot of potential, so it will just come down to if we can pull it all together,” said forward Max Carpenter (‘19), before adding, “overall I am pleased with [last game’s] performance, but there are always small things to work on.”
Keslar had similar sentiments. “For this season, we want to look back on it thinking that we did the best we could have done. We also want to look back every game thinking we gave it our all.”
The boys will try to do just this moving forward, looking to improve their record to 2-0 with a win over the Kingswood Knights at the Pop Whalen Ice & Arts Center in Wolfeboro tonight, December 20th at 7:00pm.