Everything was flowing perfectly for the Chagrin Falls Tigers’ hockey team in the first two period.
But then it all fell apart in the final period and the Tigers lost 6-4 to Greater Cleveland High School Hockey League Blue North rival Parma in their season opener last Friday night at The Pond.
“We got tired,” said coach Craig Hoberman. “We’ve got a small bench by having only nine skaters. We broke down and got away from what made us successful early in that game. The adrenaline started pumping and we weren’t really playing the hockey we were capable of.”
Chagrin Falls (0-0-1, 0-0-1) fell behind early when Redmen junior forward Nicholas Higginbotham scored his first goal of the season off an assist from senior forward Raiven Ignacio at the 11:44 mark of the first period.
The Tigers bounced back to hold a 2-1 at the end of the opening period/ First, junior forward Zech Armstrong put one in the net off an assist from both junior forwards Matt Revnew and Elliot Despres. After stealing the puck with some aggressive forechecking, all three forwards raced down the ice together sharing the puck until Armstrong found the perfect angle for the game-tying goal with 9:51 left.
Chagrin Falls repeated the same play less than two minutes later, this time with junior forward Henry Westendorf scoring his first goal of the season off assists from junior forward Caden Smith and senior defensemen Charlie Cimperman with 7:34 remaining.
“I think we were just being aggressive on the puck and had pretty good puck movement throughout the period,” noted the first-year coach. “When we had possession and when we didn’t have possession we were moving through the puck to try and minimize any opportunities that Parma may have had.”
The Redmen remained aggressive on offense totaling 16 shots at the net but freshman goalkeeper Nathaniel Newton saved 15 to keep Chagrin Falls in the lead. Newton totaled 38 saves during the game.
“I think Nathaniel did well,” said Hoberman. “He made some great saves. Parma certainly had a couple of breakaways and on those he did make the initial save which is great. He stood in there and was poised.”
Parma tied the score at 2-2 after junior defensemen Caleb Borowske scored off an assist from Higginbotham at the 8:47 mark of the second period.
The Tigers regained the lead after Westendorf scored his second goal of the game, this time off an assist from senior defensemen Tommy Conway with 6:10 remaining.
“I think Henry has picked up where he left off last year,” Hoberman said. “I expect that to continue through the season. He did exactly that on Friday night.”
Parma turned on the pressure in the third period as senior defensemen Ryan Myers tied the score 3-3 on a breakaway goal at the 14:46 mark.
Chagrin Falls got into further trouble when Despres was sent to the penalty box after being whistled for hooking. Parma cashed in on the power play as Ignacio pushed Parma out in front 4-3 on an unassisted goal with 6:13 left in regulation.
Having so few players, Hoberman said the Tigers needed to avoid those exact types of situations in crunch time.
“By having a short team we have to be careful when we take penalties with a small bench,” he explained. “Penalties will definitely be an area that we have to focus on and play smart and not put ourselves in a penalty kill situation.”
Things got even worse when Smith was injured in the third period, leaving the Tigers with an even shorter bench.
The Redmen’s offense continued to pepper Newton with shots and scored two more goals to stretch their lead to 6-3. Parma put 13 shots on net in the third period while the Tigers managed just six shots.
“Parma relies heavily on that first line,” said Hoberman. “That’s who they rely on. They use that as their opportunistic time to attack and other than that it’s all about keeping the puck in their zone.”
Having scored four unanswered goals in the third period, Parma seized control of the game. Hoberman said the Tigers struggled to move the puck and got caught up in the pace of the game. When things became chaotic, they needed to ice the puck at times to get a chance to catch their breath but they didn’t do that.
After a double-header against Columbus Academy in Wooster on Nov. 22, the Tigers will celebrate Thanksgiving weekend by traveling to the Michael A. Ries Ice Rink in Parma for the Normandy Tournament beginning on Nov. 26 at 5:45 pm.