Todd Sharinn, head ice hockey coach for Shelton/Weston/Staples, is slowly, but steadily turning what could’ve been a chaotic season into what could turn out to be a very good one.
Sharinn became the Wreckers’ coach about three weeks before the current year began after Ralph Unker stepped aside. An assistant at Westhill of Stamford for the past three seasons, Sharinn, an attorney by profession, used his knowledge of the game and a strong sense for both conditioning and discipline to begin molding his team.
SWS’s 7-4 win over Wilton High at the Milford Ice Pavilion on Jan. 8, was a perfect example of how a unit can fall into a defensive lapse and then rebound.
Ahead 2-1 after a first period in which the Division III Wreckers (3-3) applied enormous pressure, and leading 3-2 heading into the third period, they broke it open with a four-goal barrage against a Division II team which is still trying to find its focus.
“I’m really proud of how our guys fought back tonight,” Sharinn said. “Wilton is a very sound team, much better than its record (0-4-2) indicates.
“After two periods, this game could’ve gone either way. I think our conditioning and willingness to play hard in the third period helped us get the win.”
First-line center and assistant captain Jack Mendillo gave the Wreckers a 1-0 lead just 2:20 in, and upped his teams’ margin to 2-0 at 4:28 when he took a quick feed from linemate Derek Nussbaum and blasted a high-rising slap-shot over the right shoulder of Wilton goalie Derek Prario (23 saves).
Wilton, which had constant difficulties in the first eight minutes clearing the puck out of its end, drew to within one, at 2-1 after Joey Cullinan scored an unassisted goal with 45 seconds left in the first period.
It was Cullinan who scored again, at 4:04 of the second, off a rebound, which drew the Warriors even. In the first seven minutes of the period, Wilton outshot the Wreckers, 10-2, forcing goalie SWS goalie Will Englehart to turn aside nine shots.
The Wreckers managed to pull ahead, 3-2, at 8:43 on a goal from second-liner Ian Offenberg, with assists going to Nussbaum and Evan Mancini.
But SWS failed to capitalize on a huge scoring chance, as the Wreckers had a 5-on-3 player advantage over the final three minutes of the period.
The locals’ Ryan Johnson scored 1:53 into the third, while his team was on a power play, and Jesse Greenspun gave his team a 5-2 lead at 2:32.
Showing their resilience, however, the Warriors came back once more.
Kyle Jonas made it 5-3 at 5:20, and when Ned Zawislak powered home a soaring shot at 7:18, the Warriors had pulled to within a score.
Mendillo completed his hat trick (along with an assist) to give his team a two-goal margin, before Nussbaum, who had a goal with three assists, converted on an empty-netter off assists from Mendillo and Eric Zurmuehle with 47 seconds to go.
Zurmuehle, who skates on the first line with Mendillo and Nussbaum, had three assists.
Offenburg had a goal and an assist, while playing on the second line with Greenspun and R.J. Gupta.
Owen Engledrum is a senior defenseman.
“We experienced the same problem tonight as we’ve had in most of our previous games,” said Wilton coach Brett Amero. “We were unable to finish when we needed to.
“But, our kids haven’t given up. We fought back nicely after giving up those two, early goals. I think our guys are a little disappointed after looking back over the first seven games and not having a win. We missed out on some very good opportunities.”
Meanwhile, SWS improved to 4-3 with a 6-2 victory over Stamford High on Jan. 11. The Wreckers held a 30-29 edge in shots, as Englehart made 25 saves.
“We had a very good pre-season and went 5-0, before we came out and lost three of our first four games,” Sharinn said. “That put us on our backsides quickly. Now we’ve won two in a row. We’re going to simply follow a game-at-a-time approach. I’m more of a conservative coach. We’ll constantly work on what we do best and we’ll get better in time.”
Shelton will play Ridgefield on Saturday at 8 p.m. at the Milford Ice Pavilion.