Ice hockey: SWS defeats Masuk in state opener

Ryan Johnson netted a hat trick to power the Staples-Weston-Shelton ice hockey team to 7-3 victory over Masuk in their Division III state tournament matchup on Monday at the Milford Ice Pavilion.

Ian Offenberg, Evan Mancini, Billy Hutchison and Jimmy Beirne added single goals for the third-seeded Wreckers, who will face No. 6 seed Lyman Hall-HK-Coginchaug (12-7-3) in the second round on Thursday.

Masuk, the No. 14 seed, got a pair of markers from Adam Montague and another from Pat Andros. The Panthers finished their campaign at 6-15 overall, ending a streak of three straight postseason appearances at Ingalls Rink in New Haven, where the state semifinals and finals are held.

“I liked the way we competed today,” Masuk head coach Andy Townsend said. “I don’t think this was a 7-3 game by any stretch of the imagination. We had a couple of costly errors and they cashed in on them.”

Johnson capitalized on a Panther turnover in the neutral zone, scoring on a breakaway at 2:18 of the first period to give SWS a lead it would not relinquish.

After Hutchison doubled the Wrecker lead 1:26 into the second period, Montague’s wrister beat SWS goaltender Zach Bloom to cut Masuk’s deficit in half.

SWS then responded by reeling off four consecutive goals — with Johnson, Mancini, Offenberg and Beirne sending pucks past Panther freshman goalie Tag Weiss.

“We opened up the ice in the second period,” SWS head coach Todd Sharinn said.

“I want to see the goals spread around.”

Montague struck again with 43 seconds left in the second, converting a feed from Elijah Begin, to make it 6-2 after two.

Andros, one of Masuk’s two seniors, scored with 7:47 left to play, before Johnson thwarted any chance of a Panther comeback by tallying at the 5:18 mark.

The Wreckers used their depth to gradually grind down the Panthers over the final 15 minutes.

“I absolutely think our depth wore them down,” Sharinn said. “They are a good hockey team. They came out really working hard. Frankly, I’ve seen some film on them. This is the best I’ve them play all season. They really put it to us, I think the fact we were able to roll three lines helped us quite a bit.”

Said Townsend:

“For a team with only two seniors, we battled all the way right to the end,” Townsend said. “What are you going to do? They are a better team than us. Bottom line.”