Ice Breakers Snap Losing Streak in Wild Affair
By Jared Tennant
PHOTO: Dee Hannum
MENTOR, OH – The Mentor Ice Breakers held on for a 6-5 victory over the Delaware Thunder on Sunday afternoon in contest that lasted nearly four hours and was played on two different sheets of ice. The win marked the end of Mentor’s franchise-record 16-game losing streak, a skid that began with a 4-1 loss against the Carolina Thunderbirds on January 24.
The story of the game was a lengthy delay midway through the second period that was caused by a scoreboard malfunction at Mentor Ice Arena. Luckily, the facility houses two full-size rinks, so the game was able to continue on the secondary ice surface.
Forwards Blake Naida (1-3-4) and Austin Weber (2-1-3) both logged career highs in points while Kodiak Whiteduck and Brett Gummo each netted key goals in the third period. Whiteduck’s name was penciled into the lineup from the opening puck drop, but the 21-year-old drove in from Quebec and missed the opening period.
“Tonight, we finally played a full game,” said Ice Breakers Interim Head Coach Sebastian Ragno. “We have a bunch of new guys in the locker room. We’ve put some guys together and we’re ready to make a playoff run.”
The first period got off to an ominous start for the home team as Aaron Cook-Smith and Marc-Anthony Simonetta gave Delaware a 2-0 lead. Simonetta’s goal came shorthanded and preceded an Ice Breakers power-play tally by Blake Naida, who redirected a shot by Henry Berger.
Isaiah Crawford tied things up at 1:29 of the second frame after a stretch pass from Brendan Mackenzie sprung the Detroit, Michigan native on a breakaway. Less than two minutes later, it was Delaware who responded when Cook-Smith found the back of the net for the second time, taking advantage of a loose puck in the slot.
The chaos continued only 31 seconds later as Weber tied things up at 3-3 on a goal that was assisted by Mackenzie and Naida. Immediately after Weber scored, the scoreboard went black, causing the extended delay.
When play resumed on the new rink, Weber capitalized on a late power play to put Mentor ahead 4-3. Oddly enough, Weber’s first two home goals as an Ice Breaker came on two different rinks in the same period of play.
“I actually switched sticks too, so I scored with two different sticks as well,” Weber said. “I didn’t think we’d be switching in the middle of the second.”
Delaware came out of the locker room for the final period firing on all cylinders. Evgenii Demin knotted things up at 4-4 off assists from Darius Davidson and Kristers Bormanis only 1:10 into the frame before Whiteduck responded with his first professional goal in his debut after spending this earlier parts of this season with the West Nipissing Lynx (GMHL).
Brett Gummo hooked up with Naida at 10:28 for a two-goal Mentor lead, but the visitors refused to back down. Alex Basey netted Delaware’s second shorthanded goal of the game with a little over a minute remaining on a laser of a slap shot that was perfectly placed, making the score 6-5.
Mentor overcame a late Thunder flurry to hang on for its first win in over a month. More importantly, the victory allowed the Ice Breakers to maintain possession of the fourth playoff spot in the Eastern Division with a massive three-game set in Delaware looming next weekend.
“Our first win together as a team with the guys that we’re planning on taking to the playoffs establishes a winning culture and that’s something we’ve been missing here,” said Ragno.
In his first start since being traded to the Ice Breakers, netminder Jake Mullen made 38 saves. Delaware goaltender Aaron stopped 36 of 42 before being removed from the contest with less than five minutes to go in the third period. Sebastian DeMassa-Carlsson turned aside the only two shots he saw in relief.
One of the keys to Mentor’s success was staying out of the penalty box. The Thunder received only three power plays, compared to eight for the Ice Breakers. Two of Mentor’s goals came on the man advantage.