By Josh Brown
Troy Daily News
TROY — By game’s end, the Dayton Stealth was throwing as many skaters as it could at Troy’s Ian Kuntz every time he touched the puck.
It made no difference.
“They were trying, they were attempting … but Ian just skated through them,” Troy hockey coach Phill Noll said.
Kuntz had a hat trick by the end of the first period and scored all five of the Trojans’ goals against the Dayton Stealth, helping Troy snap a four-game skid with a 5-3 victory in the second game of the Miami Valley Freeze/Larrell Walters Memorial Tournament Saturday at Hobart Arena.
Troy (5-7) had dropped four straight entering the game, three at last weekend’s Dayton Mayor’s Cup tournament at South Metro and then an 8-4 loss to Beavercreek to open the Freeze Friday night. The Trojans hadn’t won since a 4-3 victory at Hobart Arena over Mason in their “Pink in the Rink” game on Dec. 16.
Kuntz changed that pretty quickly, though, scoring three unanswered goals to start the game.
“It felt really good coming back with that after last night’s game against Beavercreek,” Kuntz, a senior, said. “It got me feeling good, got the team feeling good, and just got us rolling. It felt good to get the ‘W’ tonight.”
A mere 48 seconds into the game, Kuntz collected the puck in Troy’s defensive end and skated past the Stealth defense on a breakaway, sniping a wristshot over Dayton’s goalie’s glove-side shoulder to put the Trojans up 1-0.
Troy remained on the attack after that early, and with 12:50 left in the first period, Carson Waite hit a slapshot that was blocked by a Dayton defender, and Kuntz was in the right place in front of the net to knock the rebound home to give Troy a two-goal lead. And with 9:07 left in the opening period and the Trojans on a power play, Zak Uhlenbrock won a faceoff to Jack McGuirk, who set up Kuntz’s third goal to make it a 3-0 Troy lead.
“It felt good to come out and get myself going again, get my team going again,” Kuntz said. “Just to get back in the groove, scoring some goals, finding the back of the net, it helps you get in the right mindset.”
“Ian had a very, very good day,” Noll said. “He had a couple goals where the goalie was just totally screened. He had no idea the puck was coming until it was past his shoulders.
“We’ve been working with Ian, because sometimes he hangs onto the puck a little bit longer than he should, trying to get the best shot possible. But we’ve been trying to tell him that as soon as you get the puck in the slot, go ahead and let it go. And he’s been having so much more success when he remembers to do that — and tonight was a perfect example.”
Dayton didn’t go away, though. With 7:45 left in the first, the Stealth tallied a power play goal of its own as Troy goalie Scott Riedel tried to dive on a loose puck in front but Carson Evrard was able to poke it in underneath him to get Dayton on the board, 3-1 — which was where the first period ended. And with 8:15 left in the second, the Stealth cut the lead to only one as Tahber Rose cut across the middle of the attacking zone and flipped the puck in top shelf to trim the deficit to 3-2.
Troy had a solid chance to answer after that as Zak Uhlenbrock hit a shot that Caden Lombardo deflected in front of the net, but the Stealth’s goalie made that save and another one on Lombardo’s rebound attempt. But the Trojans continued to put pressure on after that, and finally McGuirk centered the puck out of a scrum along the boards … right to Kuntz, who beat the goalie top shelf to make the score 4-2 heading into the final period.
Both teams killed off penalties to begin the third, and with 9:09 left in the game Kuntz stole the puck at his own blue line then he skated around and past three Stealth defenders and fired off a low wrister past a final defender and the goalie, beating him stick-side in the corner of the net to give the Trojans one final insurance goal and put them up 5-2.
The Stealth responded as Rose got his second of the game on a breakaway with 7:32 remaining to cut the lead to two again. Dayton was on a power play for the game’s final minute, as well, but Kuntz fittingly stole the puck with 10 seconds left on the clock and skated off the remaining time to seal the win.
“We needed this win tonight, and we’ve got another one against a strong Northern Kentucky team later tonight,” Noll said. “This was one of those where a lot of the kids on the Dayton team grew up playing here, playing in our organization, but then could not play for our high school, so there’s a lot of kids that know each other on these two teams, a lot of kids that grew up playing together, and now they got a chance to play against each other for the first time.”
Troy outshot Dayton 30-15 in the game, with Riedel making 12 saves to preserve the win.
The win also moved the Trojans up to fourth place in the Miami Valley Freeze standings after two games, with one more game against Northern Kentucky — a 9:30 p.m. start — to go Saturday night. Centerville led in the standings after two games, Beavercreek was second and Northern Kentucky was third. The top two teams will play in the tournament’s championship game at 7:30 a.m. Sunday, with the consolation for third and fourth place at 9:30 a.m. and the consolation for fifth and sixth place at 11:30 a.m.
“There’s been some different games today with some unexpected results,” Noll said. “But this one was important for us. We needed it after a tough weekend last week and then not starting this tournament well on Friday. This is going to help the boys get where they want to be.”
Josh Brown is the Sports Editor of the Troy Daily News. Contact him at email@example.com, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.