Hockey wins first game despite infamy, injuries

It didn’t take long for the UAA hockey team to address some of their concerns for the season.

It took all of one exhibition game aganst the Grant MacEwan Griffins.

The Seawolves got scoring from their freshmen, contribution from thrown-together scoring lines, solid goaltending and a perfect penalty kill en route to downing the Griffins 5-1 before 2,200 at the Central Peninsula Sports Arena Oct. 9.

“Every guy played their role tonight, it was just awesome,” freshman forward Blair Tassone said. “It was a terrific show for us, a good opening game.”

When it came to scoring, the Seawolves made it look like losing their three top scorers from last year didn’t matter at all. Eight of their twelve points came from freshman and sophomores. Merit Waldrop led all scorers in points with three assists and set up his teammates brilliantly all night long.

The Seawolves first goal of the year came at 5:44 of the first period as Waldrop found Nick Lowe from the right circle in front of the goal to bang in the puck.

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The Griffons answered back with a beautiful individual effort from Scott Taje who skated down the left side of the boards changed direction suddenly and wristed a shot up and over UAA goalie John DeCaro’s left shoulder at 7:37.

But that’s all the Griffins would get for the rest of the night as the Seawolves’ goalies took control of the game.

UAA grabbed the lead for good in the opening frame when a wrister from Mark Smith at the center blue line was stopped by Grant goalie Brent Walker’s pads, but freshman Shea Hamilton was right there for the putback on the power play.

” Hamilton has a good shot, great vision,” said team captain Ales Parez. “But Waldrop is a young gritty guy. He can make plays.”

And that was never more evident than on UAA’s fourth goal, which was a sight to behold. Waldrop from the corner found junior Justin Johnson coming toward the net. Johnson unloaded on the puck smashing a blistering one timer past Walker and falling over in the process.

“I can guarantee he (Walker) never saw that shot,” assistant goalie coach Chad Meyhoff said. “He may have seen it coming at him. But then it was past him and in the net.”

Walker ended up with 20 saves in 25 attempts and did not look nearly as solid as the UAA goaltending, which featured two netminders playing their first minutes of real ice time.

DeCaro stopped 11 out of 12 shots before leaving at the 9:42 mark of the second period for freshman Nathan Lawson.

“They were both really nervous,” Meyhoff said. “But they got that first save, which is so important for their confidence.”

Lawson was thrown in the fire right away. His first save, in heavy traffic, was caught and held between his pads. Lawson shut out the Griffins the rest of the way on 13 saves and the two goalies combined for a .958 save percentage.

“They were great out there,” Parez said. “And that’s what they have been showing us so far. They filled in the (Chris) King and (Kevin) Reiter spots pretty good. If they keep that up all year, we’ll have success.”