With just 10 skaters and goalie, Wahconah hockey pushes ahead
Ryan Ouimet doesn't seem to be affected by the attrition that has his Wahconah Regional hockey team down to 10 skaters and a goalie.
If he is, he's not showing it. Lacing up his skates and preparing to hit the ice for practice at the Boys and Girls Club of Pittsfield on Wednesday night, Ouimet was more focused on doing what Wahconah has done best the last few years, especially in the Hennessy League -- winning.
The points, he feels, will be there for his front line which includes Lane Grogan and Nick Montferret.
"We just have good chemistry together," he said. "I have teammates that can back me up."
The only problem is, there aren't as many of them as there were earlier in the season. The Warriors lost one player, Devon Battaini, to injury and lost another player when he left the program -- "injury-related," according to coach Don Disbrow. In its 5-4 win Saturday night over Minnechaug in North Adams, Wahconah had just 11 players on the roster.
That puts the pressure on the two lines Wahconah has, and Disbrow has made no secret of the fact that he needs his top line to handle the scoring if Wahconah is to win a third straight Hennessy championship and return to the Western Mass. tournament.
"It's all on them," Disbrow said after Saturday night's win. "We've had several conversations with that second line. They're not expected to put the puck in the net. If they do, that's an added bonus. Depending on the opponent we're playing, we might go with a more balanced lineup."
That wasn't necessary Saturday night. The win was only a one-goal win because Chaug added a goal with 6 seconds remaining in the game.
It will get tougher, though, as it did in Monday's 11-6 loss to Ludlow. Next week's in-league schedule pits the Warriors against the two teams right behind them in the Hennessy standings: Taconic (Monday at Williams College) and St. Joe's (Wednesday at the Boys and Girls Club).
One of the big challenges for Disbrow has been designing practices. He wants to focus on working harder in the offensive zone and being physical, as he said after Saturday's win, but he also knows he has to be mindful of player health and not push them to the point that they can't skate in games.
"It's a fine line to walk when you have 10 guys," he said. "You don't have three lines; we get worn down; kids get in the penalty box ... we've got a long road ahead of us."
It's so tough, in fact, that Disbrow can't run some drills the Warriors have run in the past, due to a lack of players.
"You almost end up cutting the ice in half, not using the full ice," he said.
Ouimet doesn't seem to worry about the physical toll the minutes could take on him and the Warriors' second line. Being a senior and a 100-point scorer, he's been there before.
"I think it puts a little pressure on me, knowing I have to score and put points up, but I have all the other teammates that do it, too," Ouimet said. "Pretty much everybody. Dave [Senecal], Nick, Lane, Jake [Beckwith] ... the defense has a couple of points, too."
The county's scoring leader hasn't changed any of his goals for the team. Of the toughest test he believes he's faced so far, a December loss to Agawam, he said, "Hopefully, we'll see them in the [Western Mass.] championship this year."
It seems to be a Division III-A sectional title or bust for Ouimet.
"Knowing how much we've scored, who we've scored against and how we've played against teams like Agawam, I feel like we can get there," he said.
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