Since when is a tie almost as good as a win?
When a young team rallies against a senior-dominated, first-place outfit.
The visiting Westerville Warcats outshot Newark 45-21. But thanks to stellar play in goal by sophomore Charlie Smart and a gritty defensive effort, the Generals forged a 1-1 Greater Columbus High School Club Hockey League standoff Thursday before a huge Senior Night crowd at the Lou and Gib Reese Ice Arena.
Newark (7-4-4 GCHSCHL) might be in third place during a rebuilding year, but the Generals clearly know how to play against the talented Warcats (9-1-4) after also beating them 4-1 recently at Easton for their only conference loss.
“Every team in our league hates us, and they really wanted revenge because we beat them when they were undefeated,” said Smart, who had 44 saves. “I was just on my game tonight. If we play like that, especially in the third period, we can beat anyone.”
“They were salty and chirping, but we expected that,” said Gus Goumas, one of four General seniors honored before the game. “They’re big and fast and pretty intimidating, but not to us. We have a young team and we’re capable of playing up to that level.”
Newark hung tough, with Smart coming up with several highlight reel saves until Vincent Murdock found Tyler Ahearn on a two-man rush with 10:24 to put Westerville up 1-0. But with 5:29 to play, Taylor Blome blasted home an unassisted goal to the right of the net for the tying goal
The Generals gained a man advantage on the power play with 55 seconds left after the Warcats were called for tripping, but couldn’t quite knock home the game-winner. Newark’s defense was able to kill off two Westerville power plays in the second.
The Generals lost leading scorer Levi Beckholt to a shoulder injury in the first.
“We lost our top center, and my No. 1 star goes to (Smart),” coach Don Jennings said. “He kept us in it and did a great job. It’s hard to go down a man against a team like that. (Christopher) Spies and (Jacob) English are the top scorers in the league and when you can shut them down, you give yourself an opportunity to win.
“Sometimes, it’s about matchups and we’ve been able to match their superstars. They’re a senior-dominated team, and we’re an up and coming team with only four seniors.”
Jennings said the Generals played well earlier in the week at a tournament in Detroit, although they had a couple of close losses.
“We were hoping it would carry over,” he said. “We need to carry it over from game to game.”
“We still got a point, and we’re trying to get good standing in the state,” Goumas said. “It’s really fun playing with these young guys. They’ve improved a lot. It reminds me of when I was a freshman, and we had eight sophomores and nine juniors.”