Coming into Wednesday night's ice hockey game at Wheaton Ice Rink, Thomas S. Wootton knew it would be in for a test.
After dispatching Richard Montgomery by 14 goals in the season opener, the Patriots were well aware their game against Walt Whitman wasn't going to be so easy.
Just how difficult, however, had Dave Evans' talented club sweating a bit.
After failing to convert on three first-period power play opportunities, falling behind by a goal and surrendering two third-period tallies that drew the Vikings even, Wootton's Adam Kaplan scored the eventual game-winner with 9 minutes and 21 seconds remaining in the third to lead the Patriots to a 6-4 victory.
“I'm proud of the boys for keeping it together,” Evans said. “Having a two-goal lead and giving it up, going down with all these chances on the power play and being down. They played well.”
Kaplan, a junior, scored two goals while junior forward Luke Klecker finished with two goals and an assist and sophomore defenseman Brandon Hall added a goal and two assists as the Patriots improved to 2-0-0. Whitman, meanwhile, suffered its first loss of the season (2-1-0) and featured four different goal scorers.
“I liked the way we played in general,” said Whitman coach Tom Sneddon. “[Wootton]'s a very, very good team with a lot of skill and a lot of talent and you're going to have to play, if not your perfect game, something close to it to beat them.”
Kaplan's winner came a minute after Whitman freshman Martin Torrey deposited a rebound through traffic to tie the game at 4-4. And two minutes before that, the Vikings gained momentum to start the third when senior forward Ethan Weintraub scored his third goal of the year. The momentum, though, was short lived. After Hall (who leads the team in points with 8) took the initial shot from the slot, the rebound slid to Kaplan, who put it in the net. Klecker scored with five minutes left for his team-leading fourth of the year.
“When you get down, you've got to fight adversity, really,” Klecker said. “You can't get down on yourselves, you've got to keep pushing forward. And that's the best way to win is coming back to win.”
Whitman's first period was a test of defensive fortitude as the Vikings successfully killed three power plays and sophomore goalie Matthew Derry made 16 of his 25 saves in an eventful frame. Whitman freshman Douglas Bruchalski scored the game's first goal when freshman Samuel Dexter fed him the puck from behind the net and he beat Wootton senior goalie Aaron Cooperman (12 saves), who misread the carom off the boards. Despite failing to capitalize on the man-advantage, the Patriots evened things at one heading into the first intermission thanks to Klecker's first of two goals, a far-post wrister from the right wing.
“I think we really played hard and we showed what we could do for this season,” Klecker said. “This was our first test of a game. It was exciting. I enjoyed it and I'm glad we came out with the win.”
Wootton possessed the puck well for much of the afternoon and outshot the Vikings, 46-25, but Evans said his club could improve on its accuracy. Still, it's easy to see why the Patriots believe a big season could be in store. Bolstered by skillful two-way senior defenseman in Austin Schoenfeld and Jordan Bretner, Wootton displayed speed and passing skill through the neutral zone.
“I think we have a solid team this year,” Bretner said. “Everyone seems to know the game. Everyone works hard and contributes.”
Whitman, meanwhile, showed talent on the forecheck, which helped create the majority of the Vikings' scoring chances.
Both teams are likely to be tested Friday as Whitman is scheduled to play Winston Churchill and Wootton takes on Landon School.
“The good thing about playing [tough teams] early is now you know what you've got to work on, what you have to improve on,” Sneddon said. “It's good to get them early and get a bit of a reality check.”
Thomas S. Wootton 6, Walt Whitman 4
at Wheaton Ice Rink
Thomas S. Wootton (2-0-0) 1 3 2 — 6
Walt Whitman (2-1-0) 1 1 2 — 4
TW — Adam Kaplan 2 (4:54 2nd, 9:21 3rd); Luke Klecker 2 (1:37 1st, 5:00 3rd); Brandon Hall (3:42 2nd); Michael Panagos (9:52 2nd)
WW — Douglas Bruchalski (3:44 1st); Andy Dexter (12:22 2nd); Martin Torrey (10:20 3rd); Ethan Weintraub (12:27 3rd)
TW — Brandon Hall 2 (4:54 2nd, 9:21 3rd); Nicolas Band (9:21 3rd) Luke Klecker (9:52 1st); Austin Schoenfeld (3:42 2nd)
WW — Andy Dexter (10:20 3rd); Samuel Dexter (3:44 1st); Matthew LeBeau (12:27, 3rd); Jamie Miura (12:27 3rd); Martin Torrey (12:22 2nd)
TW — Aaron Cooperman, 12
WW — Matthew Derry, 25