Tight defeats underscore determined performances by hockey team in first two games
A young Ice Hawks hockey team opened the 2008-’09 season last weekend with two losses that were closer than the scoreboard showed.
The co-op squad — which has players from Grafton, Port Washington, Ozaukee and Milwaukee Lutheran high schools — lost, 4-2, on the road against Oshkosh on Saturday after falling to Homestead, 7-4, the previous night at the Ozaukee Ice Center in Mequon.
In each game, the Hawks gave up an empty-net goal after pulling their goaltender.
Against Oshkosh, the Ice Hawks grabbed an early lead but fell behind and couldn’t draw even despite a determined effort.
“We were down, 2-1, and had a goal called off,” Hawks coach Tony Rieck said.
“We came back and made it 3-2. It should have been tied, 3-3, and they pulled an empty-netter on us.”
Grafton/Port jumped in front on a goal by junior Travis Sette in the second minute. However, Oshkosh countered with two goals before the end of the opening period.
The home team stretched its lead to 3-1 after two periods before withstanding a late rally by the Hawks. Junior Tyler Sass scored their final goal.
“Their goaltender came up with some huge saves,” Rieck said.
The Hawks tried to battle back against Homestead, as well.
“We were down, 4-1, in the first period, and it was tough to dig our way out,” Rieck said. “Our kids played hard in the second and third periods.”
The Hawks cut their deficit to 5-4 in the final period before Homestead answered with two insurance scores.
“We need a lot of work in our defensive zone,” Rieck said.
Zach Wilson led the Hawks with two goals.
Goalie Chase Hollander had 23 saves for Grafton/Port.
Rieck is in his second year as coach of the Hawks, who are coming off the most successful season in team history. They finished 6-14-1 after posting a cumulative 5-55 record in their first six seasons before he arrived.
“I expect to be above .500 this year,” Rieck said of his young team, which has five seniors — Port’s Dillon Bares, Grafton’s Cody Patula, Anthony Schoenfeld and Zack Todd and Ozaukee’s Travis Sheperd.
The squad’s top juniors include Grafton’s Sette and Lutheran’s Sass, both forwards. Hollander is a sophomore who handled the net most of the time last year.
The Hawks have some holes to fill after losing their leading scorer and best defenseman to graduation, but Rieck likes what he’s seen so far.
“We’re doing OK. We’ve got some good kids,” he said.
“We’ve got some kids who want to be there and get better. We’re going to continue to work hard and get better.”
The Hawks will return to action this weekend at the Ozaukee Ice Center, playing 7 p.m. games Friday against Kenosha and Saturday against Shawano.
SCOTT BENSON (right) of the Grafton/Port Washington hockey team battled a Homestead player for possession of the puck during the season opener for both squads last Friday at the Ozaukee Ice Center. Homestead pulled away to win, 7-4. Photo by Sam Arendt