TROY, N.Y. — There’s something about the Rensselaer/HSBC Holiday Hockey Tournament that inspires goalies to pitch shutouts. Last year it was Mike Johnson of Massachusetts — this year Matt Kelly of Wayne State.
Kelly made 36 saves en route to a 7-0 victory over Princeton, and the Warriors advanced to the championship game against Merrimack.
“I was real pleased and the key was Matt Kelly,” said Warrior head coach Bill Wilkinson. “Young freshman goalie, got his first shutout, played solid in the nets for us, especially in the first period. He kept his composure, kept us where we needed to be and we just chipped away and found ways to score goals. It was a big night for us.
“We’ve been sharing. Mark Carlson’s played two games and David Guerrera has taken the brunt of it and I just wanted to give everybody a chance and see who could come to the second position, because Dave’s our number-one goalie.”
The Warriors got 13 of those saves from Kelly in the first period and took a 1-0 lead when John Grubb put a rebound shot by Travis Rycroft over the shoulder of Eric Leroux.
In the second the Warriors blew it open with three goals. Maxim Starchenko started it off by driving to the net to score, and Nick Shrader followed with his first of the season on a rebound after Leroux was sprawled out of position.
Finally, Nathan Rosychuk scored on the power play by skating from one end of the rink to the other, cutting in front with an open lane and tucking it under Leroux.
“We worked on driving the net, we’ve had good practices and it’s good to see it pay off,” said Wilkinson.
In the third period it was more of the same for Wayne State as Grubb, Starchenko and Rosychuk each added their second goals of the game.
In the end, it was a game that some Princeton fans may want to forget, but not coach Len Quesnelle.
“I can’t forget it,” he said. “We’re trying to building pieces here and we have a lot of young guys; it’s going to take a while. We generated 36 shots and that’s a good thing, but every time we got in front of the net, the puck seemed to be cleared away. Those will fall for us eventually, but limiting shots is an issue right now. That’s just a by product of us right now and we’re not sure of our d-zone coverage.
“Going 0-for-10 on the power play doesn’t help. We get a couple of goals early and it’s a different game.”
The Tigers (1-14-0) will take on Rensselaer in the consolation game, while Wayne State (6-10-0) faces Merrimack in the championship.
“We competed at times tonight, but we still need to put together 60 minutes, and we will,” said Quesnelle. “I know we will, but it’s just a process right now that we’re going through that’s taking us longer than we thought.”
“We just have to worry about how we play and do a good job at both ends of the rink,” said Wilkinson. “Any time you play other leagues you’re always trying to win games for your league, and we’re the young guys on the block. The more times we can beat teams, it’s a positive sign for our league.”