DETROIT — Maybe the rain outside was a sign. As rain dropped outside the Great Lakes Sports City, Wayne State dropped a loss on visiting St. Lawrence in the season opener for the two-time defending College Hockey America tournament champions.
The game itself was one the Warriors hope is a sign of things to come this year for a team with 14 seniors. Wayne State (1-0-0) was outshot, 29-27, but found the scoring touch in a 4-1 win over head coach Bill Wilkinson’s alma mater in a game that was preceded by the raising of the Warriors’ 2002 CHA tournament championship banner and conference champion banner.
“I wasn’t even thinking about [playing St. Lawrence],” Wilkinson smiled after the game. “I just wanted to get the win.”
Senior Max Starchenko got the Warriors on the board at the 4:17 mark on a 5-on-3 power play. Marc St. Jean’s point shot got through to St. Lawrence sophomore goalie Mike McKenna, but the rebound lay in the crease and Starchenko poked the puck past the sprawled netminder for his first goal of the season.
Senior Jack Redwood made it 2-0 at 10:02. The puck came free in the St. Lawrence zone and squirted to Redwood who was camped out to McKenna’s left side. Redwood one-timed a laser beam past a diving McKenna for his first tally of the year.
“John Grubb played on that line with Redwood and Starchenko and it’s normally Chris Vail,” Wilkinson said. “I thought that whole line played very well and made a few nice plays that resulted in goals for us.”
The Saints (1-3-1) replied late in the period as junior Ziga Petac scored his first of the year at 18:25. WSU senior goalie David Guerrera made a toe save on the initial shot from inside the blue line, but Petac picked up the loose puck and beat Guerrera short side.
The second period was scoreless, but had better flow than the first and each goaltender stood his ground on the few opportunities that came his way. The Saints held a 21-16 shots advantage heading into the final period.
“I thought it was actually a fast-paced game,” Wilkinson. “[St. Lawrence] plays a two-man forecheck so you really have no time to set up. We won a lot of the physical battles along the wall and little things like that win hockey games.”
Starchenko put the game out of reach with a breakaway goal 5:19 into the third period. Redwood found a streaking Starchenko and saucered a pass right on the tape. Starchenko then made two dekes and went upstairs with a backhand on McKenna, who finished with 24 saves.
Guerrera, the preseason CHA player of the year, stopped 28 shots for Wayne State.
“I felt a little tired out there,” Guerrera said. “The two exhibition games I played helped me out a bit, but Starchenko’s line dominated tonight and made my job a little easier.”
St. Lawrence pulled McKenna with just over two minutes left, but could not solve Guerrera.
Redwood scored an empty-net goal at 18:22.
“It was a great start for us,” said Wilkinson. “It was our first game and St. Lawrence’s fifth, but I expect them to come out with a little bit more jump tomorrow.”
The two teams meet again Saturday night at 7:05 p.m.