By Josh Brown
KETTERING — Even though it got stronger as the year went along, last year’s Troy hockey team got off to the slowest of starts.
The Trojans weren’t about to let that happen again.
Prestyn Hoefler posted a hat trick — including a pair of goals within two minutes of each other after Beavercreek came back to tie the score — and the Troy defense and new goalie Enrique Alejandro played solid throughout, defeating the host Beavers 4-2 to open the Frozen Creek Tournament late Friday night at Kettering Rec Center.
“Last year, we came out of this tournament losing the first three games that we played,” Troy coach Phill Noll said. “We stressed that we needed to come out and play a little bit better to begin with. And I feel we did.”
Last season, the Trojans (1-1) didn’t even face Southwest Ohio High School Hockey League rival Beavercreek in the Frozen Creek Tournament, losing to Indian Hill 5-2 and then both Athens and the Dayton Stealth by matching 4-3 scores before ending the tournament with an 11-2 win over Maumee.
And with the tournament’s round-robin format — each period won is worth one point, while winning the game is worth two more — Troy found itself sitting in a good spot after its first night, scoring 4.5 total points toward the Frozen Creek standings. The Trojans were set to take on Indian Hill — which defeated the Trojans 4-1 in the early game — and the Dayton Stealth late on Saturday to continue the tournament.
“We tied one period, so we split a point. But that’s tournament action,” Noll said. “We’re sitting okay. But we’ve got a couple more tough games (Saturday).”
The only thing that slowed the Trojans down in the early part of the first Friday was a pair of penalties, both of which Troy killed off with relative ease. And with 4:41 left in the period, Hoefler put the Trojans on the board, taking a pass from Michael Hess along the left-side boards, momentarily having the puck stolen from his but taking it right back and sticking with the play until he finally jammed the puck into the net to give Troy a 1-0 lead after one.
Both goalies, Troy’s Alejandro and Beavercreek’s Gram Doherty, made solid plays to keep the score that way early in the second period. with Doherty stuffing a Zach Uhlenbrock one-timer and then stopping a pair of attempts by Tristan Meek. But Alejandro robbed a Beavercreek player of the potential game-tying goal, snaring an out-of-nowhere wrister with his glove to keep Troy on top.
Alejandro made 12 saves on the night.
“Enrique, for his first true varsity experience as a keeper, did an exceptional job,” Noll said. “He glove-saved one there on his off side, he was sliding the wrong direction on the shot, it was a left-hander and not a right-hander and he was sliding the wrong way — but he got his glove up just in time and did a real nice job.
“We outshot them 25-14. We’ve been struggling, not getting the puck off and getting quality shots, so it was good to see us get a few more shots on goal tonight.”
And with 6:29 to go in the second, Troy scored on a power play to widen the gap. Caleb Mangas fired off a slap shot, and John Wehrkamp redirected it past the Beavercreek keeper and in to make it a 2-0 game.
Beavercreek (0-1) refused to go away, though, and with 33.1 seconds left in the second the Beavers scored a power-play goal of their own. Nick Martin found Ethan Green open in front of the net, and Green put it in to cut the lead to 2-1 after two.
And just 50 seconds into the third period, the duo hooked up again to tie the score, this time with Green setting up Martin for the game-tying score with 14:10 left in the game.
Hoefler took the momentum right back, though. He stole the puck along the left side and flipped a sudden wrister over the goalie’s shoulder and in to give the lead back to the Trojans with 11:49 to go. And with 9:48 remaining in the game, Wehrkamp and Caleb Salazar got the puck up to Hoefler during a Beavers’ line change, and Hoefler used his speed to get to the goal and drive it in to make it a 4-2 game, squashing any hopes Beavercreek may have had for a comeback.
“We talk all the time about taking the wind out of the sails of the other team. One goal doesn’t really do it,” Noll said. “But if you get two in a row, that just deflates the other team, and that’s what happened when Prestyn got his two goals there. You could just see their shoulders drop.”
Immediately after the Beavers were called for a penalty with 3:44 to go, Green had a short-handed breakaway chance off of the ensuing faceoff, but Alejandro stoned him and a defender cleared out the rebound before any follow-ups could happen. And in the game’s final minute, Beavercreek put heavy pressure on Troy’s net after pulling its goalie, but Alejandro and the defense didn’t allow any truly dangerous shots — and the Trojans missed an empty-netter by less than a foot with 3.4 seconds on the clock, but by that point the game was over.
It was the first of at least three meetings between Troy and Beavercreek this season after the Trojans won the SWOHSHL’s Gold Division last season and the Beavers finished last in the Red Division, meaning that Beavercreek moved down to the Gold and Troy up to the Red this season.
“That’s what’s happened the past two years — they move up, we move down. We move up, they move down,” Noll said. “Back and forth. We’ll see them again two more times: once in league play, and once in our tournament, the Miami Valley Freeze.”
Early Saturday, the Trojans were defeated 4-1 by Indian Hill, with Troy’s lone goal coming on an unassisted goal by Hoefler with 16 seconds left in the game. The Trojans were outshot 26-10 in that contest.
Troy’s game against the Dayton Stealth Saturday night was not complete at time of press. The Trojans finish play in the Frozen Creek Tournament Sunday against the NW Eagles.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.