The Indians knew they had to come out better and stronger against their conference rival and did just that as they won 2-1 over East Friday night at Ice Line.
“After losing 3-0 to them last game (where) we had a terrible game, we came out way stronger this game,” said Unionville junior defenseman Parker Wine. “It was a huge improvement. We noticed that they’ve only lost one game and they’ve been playing really well lately and it’s really big that we stopped this team.”
It was a solid game from the net on out for Unionville (5-2-1, 5-4-1) as it played arguably its best game of the season.
“Our guys came out really focused,” said Unionville head coach William Hammond. “They came out and they executed the little aspects of the game. In order to beat a good team, you have to constantly keep your feet moving, you have to play your position properly, you have to help out your goaltender and you just have to play short shifts.
“Our guys backchecked like no other. Our defensemen were laying out some nice hits on their own and keeping their best players from getting in. It was just a great effort.”
None of it would have been possible if not for the great performance out of the Indians’ netminder.
Junior Michael Hansen made 29 saves for his fourth win of the season.
“Michael is just such a top-notch goaltender,” Hammond said. “The league is full of good goalies and he’s just right there at the top with the rest of them. Michael came back from an injury he had a couple years ago and has just been playing stellar. He’s going to be a big reason why we’re successful this year.”
He kept the game scoreless until Unionville was able to break through in the second period, which isn’t easy against an opponent such as West Chester East (8-2 overall).
“It’s kind of nerve-wracking at first, but you start to know the players and pretty much just build on the confidence of each save,” Hansen said.
That’s not to say East’s goalie wasn’t duking it out on the other end of the ice.
“The guy we played tonight, Joe Stacy, is a very good goalie,” Hammond said. “It was definitely a goalie’s dual out there tonight.”
Stacy, who has backstopped East through all 10 games this season, made 18 saves on the night and was stopping everything Unionville threw at him until Wine came calling in the second.
In back-to-back shifts late in the second period, Wine scored two goals, separated by just 1:38.
“Every time we play (Stacy), he plays a really good game,” Wine said. “Getting two by him one shift after another gave us a lot of momentum and it was very big going into the third period.”
West Chester East put the pressure on in the third, making sure if Unionville was going to win it, they would have to fight for every inch of ice to get it.
Junior forward Chris Rodier tallied in the third on the power play and shortly after, had an opportunity to tie the game on another power play, but his backhander hit caught iron.
“We know that we have to stay focused and we know that teams like that take advantage of any missed opportunities,” Wine said. “If you don’t finish a goal, they’re going to get it right back.”
East tried again for the tie in the final minute of the game with Stacy pulled for the extra attacker.
There were a few tense moments as Hansen had to make some saves between his team icing the puck.
“It was very dramatic,” Wine said. “It’s not noticeable, but it makes a big difference with the extra player. Having the puck in our zone for those faceoffs was not fun at all. Getting it out of the zone was huge in those circumstances.”
Not only was the game a huge morale booster in terms of knocking off a top team in the conference, but it also proved to Unionville it can win the big games even without a healthy roster.
“Tonight was a great game for us and I was very proud of the way the boys played,” Hammond said. “This is what we needed going into the Christmas break. It gives them so much confidence. We’re still missing three key players due to the knee injuries. … We’ve just kind of been going. When we get them back in play, it’s just going to be a fun end of the year.”