Wahconah rolls to quarterfinal win in W. Mass. hockey tourney
WEST SPRINGFIELD -- Devon Battaini didn't get to play much of a part in Wahconah's run in the Western Mass. Division III-A hockey tournament last season. A ruptured spleen kept him out of the lineup.
He's healthy this season, and making the most of it. Battaini scored twice as the No. 2 seed Warriors advanced to Monday's semifinals with a 4-2 win over Easthampton on Thursday night at the Olympia Ice Center. The win is Wahconah's 11th in a row. The Warriors will play Belchertown in the semifinals at the Olympia.
"We come to the rink wanting to win every game now," Battaini said. "We try not to think about [the win streak] too much, because then we'll get off our game."
Roger Stedman made 11 saves in net for the Warriors, who outshot their opponents 22-13. They also didn't need a third-period rally this year, as they did to eliminate Easthampton last season.
Wahconah took the lead for good on the first of Battaini's goals with 5:32 elapsed in the second period, and stretched that lead with his second goal 6 minutes into the third. On Battaini's first goal, he picked up a rebound off a Jeff Hancock shot and poked it past Easthampton goalie Sean Rose while skating by the net.
"I got the rebound on a good shot by Jeff Hancock," Battaini said. "The second goal, I was calling for it down in the corner, and Mike Bloom passed it down there. I was looking to pass it out to another linemate, but I saw an opening above the goalie's shoulder."
Battaini said the success of the team started Thursday night with a hard forecheck. Defensively, Wahconah coach Don Disbrow said, the Warriors just stayed the course. They'd beaten Easthampton 7-1 a week earlier, but knew their opponents would bring a much different game in the playoffs.
"A little too close for comfort -- I wish a couple of those [shots off the] pipes had gone in -- but it was, what, 2-1 going into the third?" Disbrow said. "Hats off to them. They've got a couple of really good skaters on their team. Luckily, we have enough good skaters that we could always keep an eye on them."
One of those skaters put Wahconah in a 1-0 hole early in the game. Easthampton center Tim Pfau picked off a pass in the neutral zone, split Wahconah defenders and beat Stedman to give his team a 1-0 lead 2:24 into the game.
"I was coming off from a change," Pfau said. "They kind of telegraphed the pass right to a guy, so I saw where he was going, went to get the puck, chipped it ahead and just skated as hard as I could to get it and it went in."
That was all Easthampton would get, though, until a last-minute goal by Alex Zadworny once the game was well in hand for the Warriors. Dan Flynn evened the score for Wahconah with 3:31 left in the first, off assists from Andrew Beaudoin and Nick Lillie. Beaudoin would score on an empty net with 1:13 left in the game to give Wahconah a 4-1 lead.
"I think we're pretty well-balanced if you look at our scoring for the team," Disbrow said. "We've got seven forwards putting the puck in the net and a defenseman that's piling up some points."
Stedman was up to the task Thursday, making a number of good saves -- including a couple on an Easthampton flurry of shots late in the second period as the Warriors struggled to clear the zone.
Stedman has recovered from an early-season concussion and made Disbrow's decision to put him back in net -- Nico Romano was an able backup for the majority of the regular season -- look very good.
"As long as he's healthy, we know Roger's a good goalie," Disbrow said. "The first four games of the season, he looked so much better [than last season]. His goals-against-average was below 2 before the playoffs ... so he's solid. He's having a good season. Unfortunately, it was only four games at the beginning and four at the end."
The good thing for the Warriors, though: The end of the season hasn't come yet.
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Wahconah 4, Easthampton 2
Easthampton 1 0 1 -- 2
Wahconah 1 1 2 -- 4
E -- Tim Pfau (unassisted), 2:24.
W -- Dan Flynn (Andrew Beaudoin, Nick Lillie), 11:29.
W -- Devon Battaini (Jeff Hancock), 5:32.
W -- Battaini (Mike Bloom, Brett Pecor), 6:04.
W -- Beaudoin (empty net), 13:47.
E -- Alex Zadworny (UA), 14:41.
Saves: E -- Sean Rose 18. W -- Roger Stedman 11.