The Wilton High School and Staples Co-Op boys hockey teams met at a crucial juncture in each of their seasons Friday. After surprising many with a red hot 7-1-1 start, Wilton is faltering. Staples had lost four of their last six and were looking to rebound. Two goals by junior captain Aaron Liu and one fluke goal put Staples on top with a critical 4-3 win over a quality opponent.
Tied at three-all in a rough-and-tumble game, fortune went Staples' way as a shot by Wyatt Fern deflected off Wilton goalie Kevin O'Connell's left pad. The puck hung briefly in the air before somehow catching the back of O'Connell's leg and slipping into the net for the deciding goal.
"I don't think the stars are aligned necessarily. We've had some pretty crappy goals scored on us to lose," Staples head coach Ralph Unker said. "I think it's only fair we finally get one our way. That was a tough game and my kids responded well."
The lucky bounce came after a wild second period that saw five goals, three lead changes, 36 shots, three penalties and some monstrous hits by both sides. Wilton went into the second period leading 1-0 before Tali Laifer tied it up at one minute five. Then in one four-minute span late in the period all heck broke loose. Wilton retook the lead on a fantastic backhanded wrist shot by Pat Holland. Just over a minute later, Liu scored the first of his goals on a point-blank wrist shot that popped the upper-right corner of the net. Twenty seconds later he struck again during a scrum in front of the goalie, slipping the puck in just as the net was dislodged.
Before the horn sounded on the second, Wilton's Bobby Cullinan tied the game again with a backhander just as he was checked to his backside. Both teams were clearly tired at the end of the second, and the third was much quieter before the fluke game-winning goal.
The win was a huge boost for Staples , which is now in the thick of the FCIAC playoff hunt at 3-3 in its conference. Staples is 9-4 overall and will take on Stamford on Tuesday.
Will this win propel Staples to a successful postseason? Start the discussion below!
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