By Josh Brown
KETTERING — For a period, Troy goalie Enrique Alejandre single-handedly kept the Trojans in the game.
In the second, though, Clay found all of the opening that even he couldn’t cover up.
The Troy hockey team simply couldn’t get anything going offensively in Friday night’s season opener against Clay in the first round of the Frozen Creek Tournament at Kettering Rec Center. And the Eagles used that to control the game on the other end, outshooting Troy 39-9 and posting six second-period goals to claim a 7-1 victory over the Trojans (0-1).
Despite the final tally, though, Alejandre had a huge game, making 32 saves on the night — including double-digit saves in the first period alone to keep the score tied at 0-0 heading into the second.
“Enrique stood on his head back there,” Troy coach Phill Noll said. “He was a brick wall. He stopped some shots that any other goalie probably would’ve allowed to go by. He was on tonight. He kept us in the game tonight.”
In that second period, though, the Trojans couldn’t get the puck out of their defensive end — and the Eagles took advantage.
With 13:14 left in the period, Clay’s Ryan Juhasz collected a third-chance rebound after Alejandre stopped a pair of shots, flipping it into the open side of the net before the goalie could dive back to cover it and making the score 1-0. The Eagles followed that up with another quick score a mere 22 seconds later, with Jake Fredritz making it a two-goal game with 12:52 to go.
Both teams had power play opportunities and couldn’t cash in, but then Clay scored a flurry of four goals in the period’s final three minutes. Jeff Schenkel scored a breakaway goal with 2:56 on the clock, then he added another goal with 2:23 remaining in the second. A power play goal with 1:21 left made it 5-0, and Cameron Menchaca ripped in a slapshot with 57.3 seconds on the clock to make it 6-0 Clay.
“In the second period, we only had one shot on goal,” Noll said. “We had five in the first and only one in the second. That was terrible. That was not good.
The majority of those scores came on plays that Alejandre simply had no chance on — Schenkel’s breakaway score was the only time the Eagles beat him one-on-one.
“They had three back-door goals in the second period,” Noll said. “That’s a defensive issue, not a goalie issue.”
The Trojans also had personnel problems in the period — with one veteran player already not available for the tournament, an injury with 8:33 left in the second put the team down two men and forced them to rely on their youngest newcomers.
“We have one player, John Wehrkamp, not here, as he’s on a family holiday vacation. And then we had one injury, and being down two men for a whole period and a half hurt us,” Noll said. “We’ve got a short bench with 15 players, and that took us down to 13. That meant I had three freshmen playing on the ice that probably should be watching and getting some experience a little at a time, not just being pushed into the deep end of the pool. They did well, though. We made some mistakes, but we’re going to learn from our mistakes.”
Troy’s offense, though, was a problem all game long. Zach Uhlenbrock was the only player regularly sending the puck at the opposing net, with five of the team’s nine total shots on goal. But the Trojans couldn’t reliably get the puck out of their defensive end, and when they did they couldn’t connect to get the puck through the neutral zone and into the attacking end.
“Our outlet passes, our breakouts, were very lackluster,” Noll said. “We weren’t moving. We were just standing there like trees on the ice, and that hurt us. Our breakout just wasn’t connecting.”
After a penalty-filled start to the third period, though, the Trojans finally broke through with 4:03 remaining. Graham Harvey — the player who had been injured in the second period — stole the puck on the defensive perimeter and beat beat the Eagles down the ice on a breakaway, beating Clay’s goalie one-on-one to make the score 6-1. And more importantly, it gave the Trojans a 1-0 third-period lead, with the tournament’s scoring system awarding a point for each period won.
But Clay’s Fredritz scored a breakaway goal with 31.6 seconds left in the game, making the score 7-1 and tying up the third-period score at 1-1, and that’s how the game ended.
“I was on the bench telling the guys that as soon as we got the puck, I wanted them to skate with it to kill the last few minutes. But as I was talking to them on the bench, they just didn’t make it onto the ice in time,” Noll said. “We got half a point in the first period and half of one in the third. But Clay is a decent team, and I look for them to be in the championship of this tournament.”
The Trojans were set to play a pair of games on Saturday — against Mason at 4:40 p.m. and against tournament host Beavercreek at 8:20 p.m.
“A lot of this is new to a lot of the kids,” Noll said. “Yeah, they played three previous high school games — but those were all preseason games. Now we’re in the regular season, and it’s a lot faster, and we’re playing to win. It’s new to a lot of them, especially the three freshmen. But we’ll learn from this.”
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.