KENNETT GRADS (l to r), Gabe Lee, John Bishop, Chris King, Cody Richard, Dan Rivera and Kevin Murphy show off the Kennett championship rings after the ceremony on Dec. 12. Matt Kelly was the lone senior from last year’s team that was unable to attend the event. (click for larger version)
December 17, 2012CONWAY — Before the Kennett Eagles took the ice for the opening of the 2012-2013 season, they took one final look at last season, raising the DIII championship banner and receiving their championship rings.
All but one of the seniors from last year's team returned for the ceremony and they pulled the ropes that released the cover on the new banner, which joins the other two championship banners from 2009 and 2010.
"It's nice to see all those kids back," coach Mike Lane said. "They're a great group of kids.
"It was a nice night, I am really proud of the whole season," Lane continued. "It somewhat brings it to a close, but it's never really closed."
The Eagle coach thought it was important that the younger kids who weren't part of the title team got to see the championship celebration.
"It's really important for the younger guys to see," Lane said. "It takes a lot of hard work. Nobody gives it to you."
While this year's Eagle team looks much different than the crew that won the title last year, it didn't take very long for the Eagles to get back their winning ways, as they scored just 21 seconds into the game and rolled to a 7-1 win over Con-Val.
"Especially on a night when you do ceremony and people's minds are in three or four places, it's nice to get out quick," Lane said. "We are a new team and a young team, but they all did a lot of good things."
On the offensive side of things, it was the veterans who carried the load, while sophomore goalie Josh Kondrat earned the win in net.
Connor Todd lit the goal lamp just 21 seconds into the game on a wrap around goal for a 1-0 lead, with Brad Canavari and Dan Nusbaum getting the assists. For Nusbaum, it was his first career varsity point.
The Eagles continued to pressure and pressure, with Anthony LaRusso getting a couple of great shots on net and Todd joining in as well. Con-Val had a couple of trips into the offensive zone, but couldn't produce any shots.
The Eagles took their first penalty with 11:24 to go in the first period, but being shorthanded didn't seem to matter, as senior James Gallo fed LaRusso for a shorthanded tally with 10:42 to go, giving the Eagles a 2-0 lead.
Canavari had a couple of good chances that were turned away and the Cougars were able to finally get on the board with just a tick more than seven minutes to go in the period, scoring on a breakaway after a turnover at the opposite blue line.
Kennett got its first power play with 6:34 to go and Todd and Nick Massa teamed up for a good chance, but the power play didn't last long, as the Eagles were blown for a penalty just as Todd appeared to give his team a 3-1 lead.
The Cougars killed off the Eagle penalty, but the hosts struck while down a man again, this time with 4:17 to go, as Massa buried a shot top shelf on assists from Todd and Dane Rivera.
The Cougars managed to get one by Kondrat a few minutes later, but the puck fired off the post. Kondrat did make a couple of solid saves to keep the Cougars off the board.
The Eagles got another power play with 1:38 to go in the period and had numerous chances, with Robby Moody, Canavari, LaRusso and Nick Ansaldi all getting chances, but it was Canavari who lit the lamp with 38 seconds to go, taking a feed from Moody for a 4-1 lead and the period came to a close with the Eagles holding that lead.
The Eagles killed off a penalty to open the second period and Kondrat turned away a good bid as the penalty came to a close.
Canavari got his second goal of the game with 11:38 to go in the second, with Todd and Rivera getting the assists for a 5-1 lead. Kennett continued to pressure, with Moody, Massa, Canavari and Todd all getting looks.
The Eagles did a great job of killing off another penalty and continued to put the pressure on in the offensive zone. Canavari just missed a hat trick, firing a shot off the post.
However, Gallo didn't miss on a chance with 2:02 to go, as he took a great feed from Todd and buried it for a 6-1 lead, which the Eagles took to the end of the period.
Kennett scored the final goal of the game just 40 seconds into the third period, as Massa fired home a shot on assists from Todd and Canavari for the 7-1 lead.
Ansaldi, LaRusso, Canavari and Todd all had chances, while Kondrat turned away a couple of Con-Val chances. Kennett also killed off a couple of penalties and skated off with the 7-1.
With the first win in the book, Lane knows things certainly get more difficult from here, as the Eagles entered a stretch with Hollis-Brookline, Berlin and Belmont-Gilford all on the docket before the holidays.
"We know we have a three-game stretch coming up, so we wanted to get into the win column," Lane said. "We've got a lot of work ahead of us."
The Eagle coach also noted that it was great to get all the younger kids into the game and give them some experience right off the bat.
"With the tough stretch ahead, we have to be ready to play," Lane said.
The Eagles started that tough stretch with a 4-1 win over Hollis-Brookline on Saturday, with Todd netting three goals and Massa netting a goal and an assist. Kondrat got the win in net.
The Eagles will be finishing up the 2012 portion of their regular season with a 6 p.m. game against Belmont-Gilford on Saturday, Dec. 22. The Eagles will be taking part in the Heuchling and Swift Memorial Classic, hosted by Oyster River, starting on Dec. 28.
Joshua Spaulding can be reached at email@example.com or 569-3126