Darien, Il–A tie-breaking goal allowed with 11 seconds left in their first ever game kept Lane Tech‘s brand new hockey program from a perfect start. Given the chance to redeem themselves Sunday, Lane Tech (1-1) didn’t leave anything to chance, downing Waubonsie Valley (0-2) by a score of 5-1 for their first win since re-adding hockey to their athletic program.
They haven’t been playing together enough for everyone to even know each other’s names, but Lane Tech dominated the action to the tune of a 35-15 shots on goal advanatage. For a new team, one victory goes a long way affirming they can compete with other schools in the Darien Sportplex High School Spring League.
“I don’t think anyone was really confident going into this, but now it’s an upbeat mood,” said Bill Todde, a Lane Tech junior who had been eagerly awaiting the beginning of his school’s hockey program.
Lane’s first victory was not without adversity. Despite spending much of the first period in the Waubonsie Valley zone behind the puck-handling of center Ethan Masunaga, a dominant penalty kill that produced a shorthanded scoring chance and owning an 8-4 shot advantage, they trailed 1-0 after the first fifteen minutes. A soft floater from the back end of the face off circle by Waubonsie forward Ryan Gosnell slipped by Lane goaltender Elijah Marder with 9:09 remaining in the opening period for the only score.
“His stick got stuck in his jersey,” said Lane Tech coach Chris Marzec. “Just a mental lapse. You bounce back for it.”
After losing their first game on what Marzec also termed a “mental mistake,” Lane sophomore Erik Lundgren was determined to not let another error determine the game. A minute into the second period, Lundgren stripped the puck from a Waubonsie rush, streaked along the boards past the Lane cheering section before cutting toward the crease at a right angle and pounding home the equalizer.
“We had to get that goal to get it back because that was embarrassing to let that in,” Lundgren said.
While he was blunt about his motivation, Lundgren, who chose Lane after his family scoured the city for which school could best manage his hearing impairment, couldn’t offer much insight on why the seas parted for him.
“I don’t really remember to be honest with you,” Lundgren said. “I was looking five-hole the whole time.”
From there, the workload piled up for Waubonsie Valley goalie Charlie Cockey. He recorded 30 saves but spent the second period scrambling to cover up rebound opportunities before Jordan Thoma put Lane up for good by pounding the puck off his chest protector for the first of her two goals on the evening with 5:23 left in the second period.
“Yeah, he didn’t get a lot of help,” Waubonsie Valley coach Tim May said of his goaltender. “He didn’t do too bad considering.”
Thoma, who scored again with 6:09 remaining in the third period, stood out as much for her speed and productivity as she did for being the only girl on the ice. Her coach hasn’t had to spend any time explaining why she’s there.
“They seem to accept it pretty well. She’s clearly a high-caliber player. They joke around with her in the locker room, they get along,” Marzec said.
Mitchell Hoffman converted Lane’s only power play with a goal at 12:15 remaining in the third period, while Masunaga closed the scoring with a goal with 3:36 remaining.
Traditionally, the Spring league is about player development in preparation for regular-season play in the winter. Despite the loss, May will have no trouble finding sources of encouragement for his players.
“Always individual positives. If a player had a good shift or a good pass, there’s always something,” May said.
However for Lane, their focus is developing familiarity with one another and a victory makes it easier to claim gains.
“We’re still trying to find our groove, you know, it’s our first year playing together,” Todde said, “We’re getting there.”