- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Maybe his high school or college graduation, getting married or birth of a child one day might change his mind, but for now, at least, La Plata’s Josh Wenzinger said the most exciting thing that’s ever happened to him was his game-winning goal against Thomas Stone on Friday night.
Wenzinger scored with one second remaining in the third period to help the Warriors come from behind and defeat the Cougars 2-1 in a matchup of two Maryland Scholastic Hockey League Southern Conference and Charles County rivals at the Capital Clubhouse in Waldorf.
“Best feeling I ever had,” Wenzinger said as he sported an ear-to-ear grin.
Stone buzzed the Warriors’ goal in the final minutes looking to break the 1-all tie, but La Plata’s Zeke Cochran took control of the puck and sent a lead pass to Wenzinger with just seconds left in regulation.
Wenzinger skated down the middle, cut left and while falling, dragged the puck in with his stick in the right side of the goal past Stone goalie Kira Maginnis.
“I had no idea [how much time was left],” Wenzinger said. “I just got the puck and skated as fast as I could to try and beat the buzzer. It was just last-second thinking.”
The official time of the goal was 14 minutes 59 seconds. Had Wenzinger not beaten the buzzer, the game would have ended in a tie.
“I looked up at the clock because we were having a heck of a time getting it out of our zone and I’m thinking the clock will get down to zeros, but Zeke just made a great play to push it up,” said Geoff Howard, who co-coaches La Plata along with Matt Golanka. “I knew he’d get down there because he’s pretty quick, it was just a matter of whether it would get in before the clock hit zeros.”
Wenzinger pumped his fist and was swarmed upon by his teammates near center ice.
“I wasn’t paying attention [to the clock], but I thought the buzzer was going to go off [because] I didn’t think he would make it down here in time,” said Maginnis, who made 34 saves in the game. “But he did [make it down in time] and I made the first save, but while he was falling, he hit it again and knocked it in. You can’t really get that upset about it, though I know a lot of people on the team are, but it’s a game and we’ll get them next time.”
Stone opened the scoring early in the third period when Tommy Callahan’s slapper from outside the blue line skipped past La Plata netminder Trevor Abell.
“He’s come a long way and he’s competitive,” Howard said of Abell, who put the play behind him and rebounded to make several glittering saves the rest of the way. “He’s a battler who doesn’t give upon the puck. He’s the kind of kid you want to have.”
La Plata rallied to tie the game at about the midway point of the period when Andrew Keelan banged a second rebound past Maginnis off a goalmouth scramble.
“I just kept telling the guys the whole time on the bench, ‘Just keep going to the net, just keep crashing the net and follow pucks to the net and sooner or later they’re going to go in,’” Howard said.
Following the goal, the clock wasn’t started for approximately 30 seconds, though it resumed ticking after a whistle in an attempt to make up for lost time.
“I told the kids during our timeout [with 3:41 remaining] that La Plata was working harder than us and they wanted to more than we did,” Cougars first-year head coach Tim Higgins said. “We were not playing urgent hockey and we needed to be, especially that late in the game. We need to figure out a way to generate more effective offense.
Maginnis almost stole the show the rest of the way as she made 23 saves. Late in the third period, she made a glove save on Connor Keelan, who snapped a shot from alone in the slot and moments later, she stopped Wenzinger on a breakaway. “I think being on [as a goalie] is a day by day thing,” Maginnis said, “and I think once you make that first save you get more and more confident and you know you’re going to make more and more of them.”
The goalie received several accolades for her stellar effort, which involved stopping the first 31 shots she faced, including all 27 shots through the first two periods.
“I thought Kira played great and I told her so in front of her teammates during and after the game,” Higgins said. “Kira’s performance was the reason we had a good chance to win the game.”
“I don’t think [we were getting frustrated] because we know what she’s capable of doing,” Howard said. Wenzinger didn’t quite agree with his coach.
“She was making great saves and we were doing all we could to get it in the net,” he said. “Yeah [she was frustrating us].”
The win exacted a form of revenge for the Warriors’ 6-5 nonconference loss two days earlier.
“We knew that coming in because they’re definitely a good team,” Howard said. “They’re hard working, they’re very well coached and they played a really good game the other night. We told the guys to be prepared for that. It was a great game. We were moving our feet tonight and going into dirty areas and backchecked and forechecked. That was really the difference for our team.
“We’re nowhere near where we’d like to be, that’s for sure. We’re a work in progress. We have a young team that’s very inexperienced. Even our experienced guys are young. We’re not where we want to be but all we want is our kids to work their butts off and play hard. That’s all you can ask for.”
Maginnis said the addition of Higgins has meant the world of difference for the Cougars.
“Our coach is so much better at telling us where you go and where to be and how to play defense because we played no defense last year,” she said. “I think that’s the main thing, we have defense this year. I’m really happy, we don’t lose games that badly anymore and it’s fun. It’s a lot more fun when you have a chance of winning.”
“We had plenty of chances to win that game, but we were consistently missing the net and when we did get a shot on net the La Plata goalie made good saves,” Higgins said. “Obviously, I would have liked to walk away with the win but La Plata played better than us and they earned the win.”