PITTSFIELD -- The game was a little bit different than he's used to. It was an ocean away from where he's accustomed to playing. But Hjalmar Gustafsson hardly looked out of place.
The Wahconah senior from Sweden made his North America debut with one goal and two assists as the Warriors beat former Hennessy League rival Taconic 5-1 on Wednesday night.
"American hockey is a lot going to the net, crash the net," he said. "So that was what I expected."
His first assist set up Patrick Jamross' goal to open the scoring with 3 minutes, 41 seconds left in the first period. He tallied his second in the third on Dan Flynn's goal, which made the score 4-0. Gustafsson finished his night with his first goal on United States soil on a delayed penalty.
"Team won, so that's what I care about," Gustafsson said. "Help the team to score, that's fun. But most important is the win."
Gustafsson's three-point night slightly overshadowed two other quality individual performances for Wahconah players. Jamross tallied a pair of assists after his goal, matching Gustafsson's three points, while sophomore Nate Lapine had back-to-back goals in the second period to help Wahconah gain separation.
"Smart hockey player, ton of heart," Disbrow said of Lapine. "He knows how to play the game. He knows where to be, when to go there. Head's always on a swivel. He doesn't miss much."
His first goal came just 1:16 into the period from just off the crease. With a swarm of players jabbing away at the puck, Lapine found a sliver of space to pop the puck across the line.
His second required the puck to do a lot more work. With Wahconah short-handed, Lapine softly shot the puck from the blue line. It saw its way around a defender and behind Brendan Leary for a 3-0 lead 47 seconds before the period expired.
"Nice start off for the season. As a sophomore, two goals in first game, that's phenomenal," Lapine said. "... Worked on everything we did in practice, so not much I can say besides good job."
Wahconah's speed wore down Taconic, which had six fewer skaters dressed (Wahconah had 20 to Taconic's 14). It also helped Wahconah to seven power plays, five in the third period. Wahconah converted three of those.
"It's what Agawam's been doing to everybody for the last four years, right?" Disbrow said with a laugh. "They to me looked a little bit tired. We got tired in the second period, too. Then we started to shorten shifts."
Taconic's lone goal came with 28 seconds left in the game, spoiling Roger Stedman's bid for his first shutout of the season. Earning just one all of last season, he wanted this one.
"I spent all summer progressing on my goaltending," he said. "To come that close, it was a heartbreaker, especially on the first game."
The Braves had plenty of chances, especially in the first period, but they couldn't find the finishing touch. Connor Conant had a quality chance on the power play before a breakaway opportunity. Stedman was up to the task on both, just as he was on Brian Henault's breakaway late in the third period.
Braves coach Stephen Terpak knew going into the season his team needed to work on putting goals on the scoreboard. Taconic will have to continue working toward that goal.
"Our guys did not play any where near the potential," Terpak said before officiating the junior varsity game afterward. "We got outworked the first two periods. We finally came around in the third period to start working harder. We had plenty of opportunities to score, just couldn't get it by the goalie."
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