Wahconah hockey hopes to ride long win streak into Western Mass. tourney
Midway through the hockey season, things were not going well for Wahconah.
The perennial Berkshire County favorite was 3-5 after Taconic's third-period rally gave it a win over the Warriors in Pittsfield on Jan. 15.
On paper, things didn't look a whole lot better after Wahconah lost a three-goal, third-period lead in a 3-3 tie with Ludlow three days later in North Adams. That was followed by a 10-2 loss to Chicopee.
For the Division III-A Warriors, though, a tie with a Division III squad like Ludlow was just what they needed.
"At that point in the season, we were 3-6," Wahconah defenseman Patrick Jamross said. "We needed confidence boosters to let [us] know we can play with anyone."
Since the Chicopee debacle, Wahconah has played its best hockey of the season. The Warriors, who have already qualified for the Western Mass. III-A tournament, take a nine-game win streak into today's regular-season finale at Easthampton.
The Warriors may not have the state's leading scorer, as they had with Ryan Ouimet last season, but they have balanced scoring and -- most importantly -- depth. By this time last year, the Warriors were down to single digits and Roger Stedman in net.
Now, Wahconah has a strong squad, abetted by an offseason co-op addition of Mount Greylock, McCann Tech and St. Joseph players in the wake of St. Joe's program folding. The Warriors carry two goalies, as Nico Romano has ably taken care of the net while Stedman works his way back from an injury. The front line of Hjalmar Gustafsson, Andrew Beaudoin and Dan Flynn is leading the way on offense.
"We've got seven forwards who are putting the puck in the net, and we're rotating at least a body through people to keep some type of freshness," coach Don Disbrow said. "We've got Patrick, who is putting up a bunch of points from [defense].
"It's nice to have some depth, in case somebody is hurt or isn't playing well or whatever the reason may be."
The Taconic loss was a definite setback, but one the Warriors seem to have used to motivate them the rest of the way.
"They've been our rivals for who-knows-how-long," senior Lance McColgan said. "I think our team really needed that."
For Disbrow, the key has been the Warriors' passing -- though an improved forecheck hasn't hurt, either.
"The five or six games that we really played well, and many of those were against Berry Division teams, it was our forecheck," he said. "It's been decent or better than average most of this streak, but it could have been better.
"Our passing is the one thing that's been crisper constantly the second half of this season. We took a long time to get going with passing."
Even with a lack of depth in the 2012-13 season, Wahconah was still able to advance to the Western Mass. semifinal round. Disbrow expects the Warriors to end up as a No. 4 or 5 seed in Saturday's seed meeting, but could see the team going either higher or lower, with an outside shot at the No. 3 seed.
"I think Greenfield's probably got [the top seed] locked in because of their record," he said. "South Hadley will probably get [No.] 2 because they played up a division."
The rest of the field is wide open, in his opinion.
"It gives me confidence, because anybody can beat anybody," Disbrow said. "But it means anybody can lose to anybody. ... You've got to show up, play the game and execute."
To reach Matthew Sprague:
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On Twitter: @BE_MSprague.