If TJ Parkes was having trouble believing it, imagine how Mike Maulucci felt?
Parkes shorthanded goal, into a vacated Sault North Stars net, gave the Waterloo Wolves (Team Central) a 4-3 victory over the host North Stars Monday, in the opening game for both at the Air Canada Cup, the Canadian midget hockey championships, at Memorial Gardens.
The Sault plays its second game in the six-team, seven-day tourney tonight (7 p.m.) at the Gardens, against the St. John’s Maple Leafs (Team Atlantic). St. John’s dropped a 4-1 decision to the Yorkton Harvest (Team Western) Monday.
With the Wolves and North Stars tied at 3, and 7:19 remaining, Maulucci, the Sault goalie, strayed from his net and fanned on a clearing attempt. The puck trickled right to Parkes, who was so surprised at being all alone in front of the North Stars’ goal, he nearly shot wide.
“It was great to score for the win,” said Parkes. “But he (Maulucci) was playing well and it’s too bad it cost them the game.”
“The puck had some spin on it and, at first, I was going to leave it behind the net,” said a disappointed Maulucci. “But when I went to shoot it, my head wasn’t down and I fanned on it. I feel like I lost the game for us.”
Saying Maulucci had “won a lot of games for us this year that we should have lost,” North Stars’ head coach Mike Hall was upset his team couldn’t rally for its netminder.
“He (Maulucci) made a mistake, he knows he made a mistake, but we still had seven minutes left to score and we didn’t do it,” said Hall. “I know we had a long layoff after the Great North Midget League finals, but we just didn’t seem to have any jump tonight (Monday). You can’t take shifts off at this level and we didn’t have what was necessary to win.”
Though visibly frustrated in the game’s waning moments, Maulucci, who led the GNML in goals against average (2.38) and shutouts (six) this season, was confident he’d bounce back.
“It’s out of my head now,” said the 16-year-old. “The game’s over. We just have to win the next one now.”
But, to do that, the North Stars will have to markedly improve their special teams play.
Though outshot 28-26, the Wolves scored twice on the powerplay and twice while shorthanded. The North Stars, who contributed to their woes with some highly undisciplined play, were 0-for-8 with the man advantage.
“We have to move the puck quicker, especially on the powerplay,” said Hall.
Sean Ryan, Brock Schultz and Duncan Snyder had the other goals for the Wolves, who led 3-2 entering the final period.
Michael Sharp, Adam Combs, who scored with just :19 to go in the second frame, and Andrew Harrison, who tied the game 1:32 into the final period, handled the North Stars’ scoring.
While admitting his team struggled, Sharp found the silver lining he hopes the Sault can take into tonight’s contest.
“We know we played poorly and we only lost by a goal,” Sharp said. “We proved we belong here.”
Meantime, Waterloo skipper Randy Harbach was just happy to get the tourney’s first game out of the way.
“You never want to play the host team in the first game,” said Harbach. “I knew their players would be pumped and they’d have their fans behind them. It was a roller coaster on the bench and we’re glad to come away with the win.”