Ice Breakers Split Opening Series in Watertown
By Jared Tennant
PHOTO: Watertown Wolves
Watertown, NY - The Mentor Ice Breakers claimed a 3-1 win in their season opener on Friday night in Watertown, New York against the Wolves before falling by the same score the following evening. As a result, the Ice Breakers are tied with Watertown and the Delaware Thunder atop the Eastern Division as all three teams picked up three points during the FPHL's opening weekend.
Friday, October 25 – Ice Breakers 3, Wolves 1
Led by netminder Austyn Roudebush and a perfect 7-for-7 showing by the penalty kill unit, the Ice Breakers overcame an early deficit en route to a 3-1 victory over the Wolves in the season opener for both clubs in front of 812 fans at Watertown Municipal Arena.
The Wolves jumped ahead 1-0 when former FPHL Defenseman of the Year Kyle Powell found twine off assists from Deric Boudreau and Tyler Gjurich just over five minutes into the contest. After killing off a couple of penalties, including a brief 5-on-3, the Ice Breakers tied the game at 17:40 when Declan Conway finished a beautiful passing play on a 2-on-1 break. Jon Buttitta and Parker Moskal were credited with assists.
Mentor found itself with two men in the box once again early in the second period after Brody Duncan was called for tripping at 1:17 and Moskal took a slashing penalty just 54 seconds later. Rather than back down against the Wolves vaunted power-play unit, the Ice Breakers took their first lead when Buttitta scored shorthanded off an assist by Vaughn Clouston at 4:01.
The Ice Breakers overcame two more penalties in the third period while fending off Watertown’s offensive attack and clinging to a 2-1 advantage. Moskal sealed the win with under two minutes left in the game before Wolves Head Coach Paul MacLean had a chance to pull his goalie, Jeremy Pominville, in favor of an extra attacker. After taking a pass from Duncan, Moskal used a toe drag move before showing some patience and deking around Pominville, adding another highlight reel goal to his resume.
The Wolves out-shot the Ice Breakers 18-16 in the final period, but Mentor held a 43-36 lead in shots overall. Buttitta and Moskal each had a goal and an assist while Roudebush put together a strong FPHL debut, stopping 35 of 36 Wolves attempts to earn his first win as an Ice Breaker. For Watertown, Pominville played well but fell to 0-1-0 after a 40-save effort.
Saturday, October 26 – Wolves 3, Ice Breakers 1
Watertown’s power play rebounded from a poor showing to score in the first period and the Wolves led the rest of the way in a 3-1 win over Mentor on Saturday night. Gjurich, a two-time FPHL scoring champion, netted the first goal of the night at 17:28 of the first frame off assists from Cameron Dimmitt and Lane King after Essery took a cross-checking penalty at 16:47. The Ice Breakers had already successfully killed off a five-minute major penalty just five seconds into the game but were unable to hold off the Wolves power play a second time.
Late in the second, Boudreau beat Roudebush to push Watertown’s lead to 2-0. King and Gjurich both factored in with assists on the goal. Mentor generated some quality scoring chances in the second, but the Wolves out-shot the Ice Breakers 14-9 in the period and led total shots on goal 22-19 at the second intermission.
Watertown held off Mentor’s attack for most of the third period, but Alex Morrow tipped in a shot from rookie defenseman Stepan Jirovec at 18:41 to bring the Ice Breakers within a goal at 2-1. Mentor Head Coach Iain Duncan pulled Roudebush for an extra attacker in the final minute of regulation, but a long empty-net goal by Gjurich with 19 seconds to play restored Watertown’s two-goal advantage and made the final score 3-1.
Gjurich scored or assisted on all three Wolves goals after being held off the scoresheet on Friday night. King dished out a pair of helpers while Pominville saved 30 of the 31 shots he faced to improve to 1-1-0.
Meanwhile, Roudebush had another great game between the pipes for Mentor with 33 saves but took his first loss of the season. The 26-year-old compiled a .958 save percentage over two games against the Wolves and is exceeding expectations so far after being one of Mentor’s most critical offseason additions.
The Ice Breakers will not return to Watertown Municipal Arena during the regular season. The two clubs wrap up their five-game season series from March 27-29, 2020 with a three-game set at Mentor Civic Ice Arena.