Westlake icers close out strong in win over Eagles
Story by Jim Horvath
Photos by Larry Bennet
Seems like it was only yesterday.
Just a little over a year ago, Avon and Westlake started their respective hockey programs. Since then, the Eagles and Demons have gotten to know each other well, even sharing practice time on the ice from time to time.
On Saturday, the two club teams met on their shared home ice at the North Olmsted Recreation Center. The Demons, thanks in part to an early goal by freshman Nathan Greenberg, came away with a hard-fought 2-0 win in front of a large partisan Avon home crowd.
Sunday night, Westlake continued its earl-season success with a 5-1 win over the Holy Name junior varsity at Brooklyn Arena. That gave the Demons a 9-0 start heading into Tuesday night’s game against Amherst in Elyria.
Avon, which had more than its fair share of scoring chances in the first two periods, lost its first game of the year and fell to 4-1. The Eagles outshot the Demons, 16-10, but couldn’t get the puck past Westlake senior goalie Matt Russell.
“It was a good game all the way around,” said Avon head coach Nick Novakovic, whose team moves on to play in the Lorain County Tournament on Thursday.
“They got a couple of chances and buried them,” Novakovic said. “We had plenty of chances and didn’t bury ours, and that was the difference in the game. In a two-goal game like that, anything can happen.
“We were trying to get it back to one there in the third period, but it didn’t happen for us,” he added.
Westlake got the go-ahead goal just 3:14 into the game. Greenberg got the puck past Avon’s senior goalie, Kory Carter, from close range off an assist from junior Alex Miller. Avon cranked up the pressure on Russell and the Demon back line after that, but couldn’t convert.
In fact, the Eagles had a power play late in the period thanks to a tripping call on Westlake’s Brendan Teets. A Greenberg penalty with 11:12 left in the second period gave Avon another power play opportunity, but the Demon defense was again up to the task.
Avon got yet a third power play chance with 3:02 left in the second when Greenberg got whistled for tripping. Again, Russell and the Westlake defense held.
In between those two Avon opportunities, however, Westlake got an insurance goal. It was a power play goal off the stick of senior forward James Jenkins with 8:09 left in the second. Sophomores Rudy Keppler and Adam Sandor were credited with assists on the play as the Demons took a 2-0 lead into the final period.
Westlake finished strong, outshooting the Eagles 10-5 to close out the win.
“We’re kind of sister programs,” said Westlake head coach John Duke. “It’s the second year for both of us. We practice on Monday nights together, so we’re familiar with them and they’re familiar with us.
“We’ve had some good games with them so far,” Duke said of the young rivalry. “They won last year and now we have one, so we’ll have the grudge match later this season.
“Avon played very well. I thought they came out ready to play and gave us everything they had. I know those kids, so I can tell you they played a really good game. That first goal set us apart a little bit and we maintained the lead through the game.”
“I thought our kids played really, really well,” said Novakovic, who recently got his full team back on the ice with the conclusion of the football playoffs.
“It’s a rivalry game and we work with these guys too, so everybody knows everybody else on the other bench’” he said. “It’s neat, but it’s kind of tough to play them. I give Westlake a lot of credit. They played well and made the most of their chances.
“After that, I thought our guys settled down a little bit. Korey played really well in net for us. Matt played well for them too. The couple of chances we did have where we got some good, hard shots through, he was able to get a glove or stick on them and made some nice saves,” he added.
Duke said his team continues to play well in the third period, a team trait not seen often during the Demons’ inaugural season.
“We added a goal in the second period and took it to them in the third,” he said. “We shut them down in the third period. We did a great job coming out and maintaining that two-goal spread.
“Last year we struggled in the third period. This year, we’ve got the legs and the initiative to finish the game, which is great,” he added.
The two teams will meet again later this season on Jan. 21.