The Newark Generals might resemble the walking wounded right now, but still tuned up for a big tournament this weekend with a workmanlike effort Thursday.
They’ll head to Pittsburgh today for the Steel City Championship riding a three-game win streak after handling visiting Athens 4-1 in Greater Columbus High School Club Hockey League play.
“We have two guys on crutches and a third guy with a knee brace,” coach Don Jennings said. “We’re really banged up and had to try some new lines.”
But as assistant coach Kyle Thomas pointed out: “We got some good minutes out of some young guys.”
Newark (15-4-4, 8-2-3) scored two quick goals in the first period. Gabe Parini found the net off a Chase Cherubini assist and Tate Stewart blasted home a shot on an assist from Bailey Hayden.
“Parini dominated the first period,” Jennings said. “He was far superior to anyone on the ice.”
“It was good to gel with a new center on my line,” Parini said. “Ben Dickson moved over from defense and played well. It was fun. With the injuries we have, it was good to get the new lines playing time.”
The Generals outshot Athens 56-18, but didn’t score again until the third period, both on Jake Hoffmann assists. The first was to Parini to make it 3-0. After the Bobcats (0-13) broke Newark’s eight-period shutout streak with a late goal by Tanner Wood, Hoffmann found Taylor Blome — up off the reserve team — for the final score.
Freshman goalie Charles Smart had 17 saves.
“Some of the reserves practiced with us this week, and it pushed us even harder,” said Hoffmann, a defender who has five points in his past three games. “It was fun to switch things up.
“We’ll look to string some wins together and keep this going. Hopefully, we’ll have our whole team soon. We really need (Gus) Goumas back, and (Alex) O’Neill should be getting that knee brace off.”
With the possibility of having to play five games in three days in Pittsburgh, the Generals weren’t trying to exert a lot energy, Parini said. But they weren’t taking Athens lightly, either.
“It was a trap game, but you still have to execute, work out the kinks, try new plays and new lineups,” he said.
“We wanted to play physical, get our legs moving, bump up for this weekend,” Hoffmann said.
Jennings said Newark still is struggling mentally.
“We had a couple of letdowns on defense that we had to talk about, mental mistakes on things we work on in practice,” he said. “At this stage, everyone should know what their responsibility is, especially in our zone.”
The Generals’ schedule has ramped up for January. They’ll play two games today in Pittsburgh and another Saturday with the semifinals and finals Sunday.
“We’re used to it,” Parini said. “When we won the state (last year), we played five games in 48 hours. You have to be conditioned, and a lot of our guys run and stay in shape on our off days. We won a tournament at Oxford earlier.”
Jennings said Newark often plays 24 of the 31 days in January.
“The Blue Jackets Cup is in about a month, and that’s what we’re shooting for,” he said. “Then the state is a couple of weeks later in early March.”