SALEM, N.H. – In a battle of the top two teams in the MVC/DCL 1, Central Catholic showed that it liked its perch at the top.
The Raiders scored two goals in the first period and controlled tempo for most of the game en route to a 4-1 win Monday over Waltham at the Icenter.
Richie Greenberg led the Raiders with a goal and an assist.
“It was a big game,” Greenberg said. “[It] meant a lot to win and beat an undefeated team like that. Hopefully, we can keep it going.”
Central's offense swirled for long stretches of the game and dominated possession.
The Raiders (6-0-1, 3-0-1) made it a busy night for Waltham goalie Shamus Egan, who had to deal with 37 shots. Greenberg got the action going by poking a turnover to initiate a two-on-one before finding linemate Eric Robbins who buried a shorthanded goal midway through the first.
Greenberg gave Central some insurance with an unassisted goal with only five seconds left in the first.
“They were able to convert tonight which was nice to see,” Jankowski said of the line of Greenberg, Robbins and Kevin Regan. “They've been doing everything but finding the back of the net and finish, and they were able to do that tonight — real happy for them. They were able to capitalize tonight.”
Waltham (4-1-2, 2-1-1) broke through early in the second when Ben MacEwen forced home a shot in a scrum in front of Central goalie Colin Soucy. The Hawks were able to get 16 shots on cage, but quality scoring chances were hard to come by.
Central gave Waltham numerous chances to inflict damage, but the Hawks were unable to convert on any of their eight power plays, including a pair of 5-on-3 situations.
“To be honest with you we're down 2-0 after one, but it could have been more, but popped one on the first shift of the second and we made it competitive,” Waltham coach John Maguire said. “They're as good as advertised. They just came at us in waves.
“Our power play is struggling and has been struggling. We've got to find a way to get that fixed and hopefully soon.”
Conrad Jepson ferried home a goal from the point to put Central up 3-1 late in the second. Jepson led a tough defensive effort by Central that curtailed Waltham all over the ice while also adding to the offensive attack.
“They transition so well and take care of business in their own zone,” Jankowski said. “Offensively, it's nice of them to chip in because they do all the dirty work that no one seems to get credit for, but tonight they were able to get the back of the net. They rewarded themselves for a change and got a bit of the limelight.”
Central's Jeff Thompson scored his second career goal with just over five minutes left in the game.
THAT’S A BIG POND: A standard ice hockey rink is 200 by 85 feet. But the main sheet at the Icenter is 200 by 100 feet. That extra 3000 square feet allowed Central's speed to flourish and set the tempo of the game. It's an advantage that Jankowski did not understate.
“It's nice because it takes a while for teams to adjust to that surface,” Jankowski said. “Once they do. it's a little less of an advantage, but at the beginning especially when we know we have that extra space and we have the speed to utilize that space. It's a fun team to watch. I'm excited to see where it's going to go down the road.”
Maguire said he thinks the rematch, in Waltham's smaller rink, will be closer but did not make any excuses.
“I think they're so good it's not going to make a difference in terms of win and loss, but it certainly makes a difference in terms of their ability to skate,” Maguire said. “I think it would have been a more competitive game in terms of shots and flow of the game in a smaller rink like Waltham.
“That being said, the reason they won the game today is that they're a better team than us.”
Maguire and his Hawks will get that second crack against Central on Feb. 12.