LUCAS BONENFANT battles hard against a St. Thomas attacker during action Dec. 26 in Exeter. Joshua Spaulding. (click for larger version)
December 27, 2012EXETER — The Kingswood hockey team needs to come out ready to play against any of their regular Division II opponents.
When the opponent is Division I power St. Thomas, that's doubly true.
The Knights came out sluggish in the opening period and never recovered in the opening game of the Exeter holiday tournament, dropping a 7-2 decision to St. Thomas.
"I don't think they showed up ready to play," said assistant coach Mike Potenza, who stood in for coach Andrew Trimble. "And they didn't really get any jump in their step until Chris (Pollini) scored that first goal (in the second period)."
The Saints wasted no time in getting on the board, scoring just 40 seconds into the game off a faceoff to the right of Kingswood keeper Shawn Goggin. The shot found the back of the net in what seemed like an instant.
"I don't think anybody on the ice even had time to move," Potenza said of the quick shot.
The Saints continued to pressure some more, with Goggin turning away a couple bids and another soaring through the crease. Austin Chasse was stopped in Kingswood's first scoring bid of the night.
The Knights got the game's first power play with less than two minutes gone in the opening period and CJ Sirrell and Brad Riley just missed connections on one bid and Josh Grasso's shot from the point was stopped before the Saints killed off the penalty.
Pollini and Grasso just missed connections as the Knights got another scoring chance, while at the other end, Goggin turned away a couple more scoring bids.
However, the Saints found a way through the Knight keeper with 9:02 to go in the frame, stuffing the puck home for a 2-0 lead.
Goggin continued to be plenty busy, turning away more shots as the period went along. At the other end, Pollini, Riley, Owen Gonya and Matt Fuller all had bids that came up short. Pollini also just missed Sirrell on a good scoring opportunity in close.
With 1:29 to go in the period, the Saints netted their third goal of the game, firing a shot off the crossbar and in for a 3-0 lead, which they took to the first intermission.
After Goggin made a couple of early saves in the second, the Saints got on the board again, this time with just a tick under two minutes gone in the period, finishing off a nice passing sequence for a 4-0 lead. That lead jumped to 5-0 with 10:13 to go in the period following a faceoff in the zone and more great passing and the Saints were on their way.
The Knights got their second power play chance with 7:46 to go in the second period and they made it count this time. After Grasso and Matt Harrington just missed connecting, Pollini broke through the defense and fired a shot to the back of the net, with Fuller assisting, cutting the lead to 5-1 with 6:33 to go in the second.
Riley and Pollini tried to cut into the lead a little more right away, but the Saints came back and buried another shot for a 6-1 lead with 5:19 to go in the period.
The Knights continued to fight, with Luke French, Gonya and Chasse all getting bids in close. With 3:18 to go in the period, Pollini fired home a one-timer from the circle to cut the lead to 6-2, with Sirrell and Riley getting the assists.
Chasse and Pollini were denied on a couple more offensive chances and Goggin shut the door on a couple of Saint chances to help close out the second period.
The Saints scored just 19 seconds into the third period on a breakaway, upping the lead to 7-2 and then held tight the rest of the way.
Kingswood killed off its first penalty of the night early in the third, with Sirrell getting a nice clear and Goggin making a solid save. Pollini, Riley and Sirrell had chances on offense after the penalty but couldn't convert.
Kingswood took another penalty with 7:46 to go and again killed it off, with Riley getting some shorthanded pressure and Goggin stopping another shot.
Riley, Pollini, Sirrell, Gonya, French and Maria Hendrickson all had scoring chances in the final minutes, but the Knights were stopped and the Saints took the 7-2 win.
Potenza praised the work of the Saints.
"That first line, they're just very strong," the Knight mentor said. "I think the fact that they're DI got in our heads a little early on."
Potenza praised the play of the team's third line, which featured a mix of Hendrickson, Harrington, Sam Bonenfant and Shannon Riley, noting they played well against a top-notch opponent.
The Knights came into the tournament after sealing their first win of the year on Saturday, Dec. 22.
Riley scored in the final minute of overtime to propel the Knights to a 2-1 win over Keene. Pollini scored the first goal for the Knights.
Kingswood will be back in action on Saturday, Jan. 5, at Pembroke-Campbell at 8 p.m. On Wednesday, Jan. 9, the team will be at Alvirne for a 6 p.m. contest.
Joshua Spaulding can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 569-3126