Thanksgiving Eve high school hockey. A Fort Wayne tradition unlike any other. Wednesday night provided plenty of food to chomp on with two great matchups and two comebacks starting with Leo’s third period flurry to overtake the Homestead lead, followed by Dylan Braun’s four goals to get Carroll past the Vipers.
Leo 4 Homestead 2
After coming oh so close to a win last week against the Vipers Homestead was clearly hungry to get their first one on the board and they wasted no time scoring. Just 13 seconds in Aiden Byler turned on the jets to capture a loss puck and wristed a shot past Xander Mulholland. That was just their opening statement. The Spartans continued to fly across the ice, finishing hits and winning loose pucks in a way we haven’t seen them so far this year. Despite what felt like an ice tilt in their direction it was Leo that led in shots on goal through the first, putting ten on Alex Dougherty and Mulholland saw eight at the other end. The second period was more of the in terms of scoring. Early in the period Homestead did a great job hemming Leo in their own end but penalty troubles for Homestead in the middle part of the period turned the momentum back towards Leo. Despite a number of power plays in a row, which included 90 seconds or so of five on three time, the Lions were unable to break through and remained down 1-0 after 30 minutes of play.
An early power play afforded a chance for Leo to get back even but it was yet again not meant to be. It was the opposite actually. Byler took the puck away at the blue line, took it down the ice and scored his second of the game, this one shorthanded with 10:33 to play. After that though it became all Leo. The Lions started their charge back with a Weston Roth power play goal where he held the puck just long enough to put it past Dougherty. Aaron Amick was the next to score when he caught Dougherty a little too far off his post with a shot from the side of the goal, leaving 6:58 left to play and the game tied. An incredible effort from Dylan Davis put Leo out in front 55 seconds later. Davis charged up the ice, stole the puck from Ethan Hyde, cut in to the slot and fired back to the far side past Dougherty. Leo did a good job sealing the game the rest of the way and a goal with 1:18 to play from Colton Calhoun sealed Leo’s comeback win.
Carroll 5 Vipers 3
The top two teams in the last iteration of our power rankings (more on that later) met for the second time this season. Their last matchup was a thrilling game that featured a five goal third period and overtime to boot. These clubs delivered yet again with another hard fought game that went down to the wire. The scoring started with Darcy Koch cleaning up a rebound in front of the net with Dylan Braun in the penalty box for Carroll. Not happy about a semi-questionable penalty call on him, Braun stepped on the ice for his next shift and scored 50 seconds after the opening goal. That goal for Carroll happened after delivered a nice body check to Koch in the neutral zone, allowing Braun to pick up the puck and wrist a shot to the far side of the goal. With just under a minute to play in the first period yet another questionable penalty call put the Vipers back on the power play. Jackson Bertels, who drew the penalty, converted for the Vipers as their power play continues to be a definite strength for them. This goal was a wicked wrister where Bertels was afforded time to pick his target, dust off the puck, and rip it home to put the Vipers back in front by one as the first period came to a close.
Most of the second period featured Carroll trying to claw back even but another goal from the Vipers made it 3-1 and the task became even more difficult for the unbeaten Chargers. John Speer collected the puck behind the Carroll net, skated around the back of the goal and sent a pass out to the slot. It was there that Cameron Whisler took the pass on the backhand and spun around to the forehand and sent the puck behind Carson Carteaux and into the net, doubling the Viper lead to two. Facing their first multi-goal deficit in league play, Carroll had to dig a little deeper to rally back if they wanted to keep their spotless record in tact. A long stretch pass by Sam Krauhs from behind his own net set up Brody Burge for a slap shot down the left wing at 13:48 of the period, as the Chargers came back to full strength. That goal would get Carroll back within a goal entering the third period.
The third period was all Braun as the league’s leading scorer asserted his dominance with three goals to make it four on the night. It took just 25 seconds for him to get his first of the period, a power play goal assisted by Carter Gnau and Finn Cupp. Braun’s second of the period was another power play goal, this one was at five on three though. After Cupp moved the puck from point to point for Davis Cline, Cline took a shot that was redirected off Gnau (according to the scoresheet) and came to Braun in the right circle. With a wide open goal Braun took care of business for his third of the night, marking his third hat trick of the season. Carroll now led 4-3 and the Vipers nearly tied it late in the game. With the goalie pulled Koch had the puck at the near post and tired a quick pass to the back door where Bertels was wide open with an open net in front of him but the pass was just too far in front of his stick for him to catch. Braun got to the loose puck along the wall, skated it out to center ice and put it into the empty Vipers net after he had crossed the red line for his third goal of the period and fourth of the game.
Now that we’re through another rotation of games it’s time to revisit our power rankings. The winner of each game was the same this time as it was last time which cements some team’s spots but still leaves us with some questions, the biggest of which can be answered on Wednesday night between 7:00 and 8:30.
1.) Carroll Chargers (6-0; 12 pts.; Previous Rank: 1): Not much to say here. They continue to go about their business and the Vipers are the only team that’s caused them any serious trouble. So why are they so successful? Well obviously a lot of it is Dylan Braun. He’s cooled off a little from his blazing hot start which isn’t a surprise because that wasn’t going to be sustainable long term. But despite that he is already just three points off of his total from last year and he’s already beat his previous goal total. An important thing to note here is that he’s not even playing on their first line, honestly it’s borderline their third line. And that top line of Carter Gnau, Finn Cupp, and Brody Burge has been money. Two shutouts in a row from Carson Carteaux doesn’t hurt either.
2.) Leo Lions (4-2; 8 pts.; Previous: 3): For the sake of transparency, I considered keeping them at three. Despite the record, despite what we’ve seen in four of the six weeks, I am still not fully sold on them being the second best team. Maybe I need to stop doing these after Vipers vs Carroll, the one matchup each rotation where the Vipers look like the team they should be. But I’m putting that aside because there’s no real way that I couldn’t put the Lions here. They’ve surpassed all my expectations for the early part of the season. They’ve fully shifted the burden of proof to the Vipers for the 2nd spot in the rankings after a great rotation, and what I mean by that is Leo gets the benefit of the doubt now. If this was a weekly exercise, they’d still be sitting here even if they lose on Wednesday. To review how they got bumped up, it was a fairly convincing win against the Vipers to start the rotation, removing any doubts that Week One was a fluke. They closed the gap to Carroll which is a measuring stick for every team right now. And they showed a lot of heart in that comeback win over Homestead last week. Frankly it was not going well for most of that game, they were down 2-0 with 10:33 to go and what did they do? Go out and score three goals in the next five minutes to take the lead. They’re pretty safely in the two slot right now.
3.) Fort Wayne Vipers (2-3-1; 5 pts.; Previous: 2): At this point I feel like they essentially play to the level of their competition. They look ok against Leo, they looked ok against Homestead and then showed what they can be at the end of the game. When they play Carroll they look like the second best team. It’s just the other games. Wednesday against Leo is a gut check game to me. A team that before the season you should’ve expected to beat, who you haven’t beat yet. Probably the team you’re most closely aligned with on skill. You want second place? This is who you have to beat. You want a chance to win the City Championship? This is who you have to beat to get there. It’s obviously not that serious yet but you want to get some good vibes going into the end of the semester and this is a good place to start. They’ve got the guys to do it, they just need to do it.
4.) Homestead Spartans (0-5-1; 1 pt.; Previous: 4): The last two weeks are just heartbreaking for the Spartans. In between games on Wednesday I was just trying to decide which one would hurt worse. It’s a tough call. In Week Five they led with a minute to go and lost in overtime but one week you can get past. Last week they led by two and looked so good early in the game. I think that was the best they had looked all season. Then it just falls apart so quick. I think that one hurts worse because that one they led by multiple goals, they looked like the better team for large stretches, and it was the second week in a row of coming up just short. All that said, they’re close. It hurts but these are still games you build off of. I know it’s coming for them and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a close game against Carroll Wednesday. Connor Gould has been good in goal for them and I’d expect him to get the bulk of the starts going forward. Gavin Elkins and Aiden Byler both being out there for them is going to be key for them to win. Those are their two guys up front and missing one of them counts for 1-1.5 goals which could be the difference.
Week Seven Predictions
Last Week: 2-0
This Season: 10-2
Perfect Scores: 2/12
Leo 4 Vipers 3
If you look at the box score from the last game between these two the Vipers actually out shot Leo, which obviously isn’t a full indication of how a game went, but it also shows that the 6-2 score might not be indicative of how each team played. A good chunk of Leo’s success really does come down to Andrew Baumert, shocking I know. It’s easier said than done but if the Vipers can solve him and get a couple more saves in their own end they’ll be in business. I’m going to stick with what we’ve seen so far though and stick with Leo. I just can’t logically pick against them against any but Carroll right now.
Carroll 4 Homestead 1
Homestead let up one less goal in the second game than the first game against Carroll so sticking with that I’ll give Carroll four goals. Homestead has yet to score against Carroll this year, I think that changes. Like I talked about in the power rankings, they’re getting there. I think a two goal swing is a decent marker of their progress but keep in mind I’m assuming Connor Gould gets the start so if he doesn’t play I’d add another goal to Carroll’s total.