NORTH OLMSTED — Things started a bit shaky, but the Avon High hockey team got its act together Sunday behind junior Eric Novakovic’s hat trick for a 6-4 win over Benedictine.
It was the Eagles’ fourth straight victory while the Bengals suffered their eighth straight setback in a Blue Division crossover game of the Greater Cleveland High School Hockey League.
Avon improved its overall record to 15-14 overall. The Eagles are 6-7 and third place in the GCHSHL’s Blue West Division. Avon has one final divisional game left in the regular season against Parma (8-15-1, 4-8) on Feb. 2, which it must win to earn a Baron Cup spot. Parma faced off with Avon Lake last night. Benedictine’s record fell to 10-18 overall.
The Eagles spotted the Bengals a 3-1 first period lead. Two of three Benedictine first-period goals were short-handed.
Mike Adamowski scored short-handed for Benedictine at 5:27 of the first period. Senior forward Hayden McDougald of Avon was in the penalty box for elbowing.
Forward Tom Hongosh scored less than two minutes later at 7:10 for a 2-0 Bengal lead. Novakovic answered 61 seconds later with an unassisted goal for Avon’s first score.
Forward Joe Kolenic notched Benedictine’s second short-handed goal at 12:31 to push the Bengals’ edge back to two, 3-1.
“Benedictine worked the puck very well, even when they were short-handed,” said Avon junior defenseman Braeden Friss. “We were expecting them to dump and chase. The way they moved the puck was impressive. We knew we had to start playing the body. That’s what we did to turn things around.”
And Avon did just that. It answered with three goals within a one-minute, 58-second span to close out the first period.
Novakovic answered 10 seconds after Kolenic’s goal. Freshman forward Joe Goetz then scored unassisted after intercepting a pass deep in the Benedictine goal to tie the game at 13:44.
Junior forward Alex Guzik put Avon up front to stay with goal just 31 seconds before the end of the period off an assist by McDougald.
“It was a matter of working the puck out of the zone and not just trying to skate it out on our own,” Friss said. “We had to shorten shifts a little bit. We start to get a little tired. We just had to smarten up our approach.”
Each team had players assessed with both minor and 10-minute misconduct in the second period, but the blow was much more severe to Benedictine which dresses only eight skaters and a goalie.
The Bengal minor-misconduct penalty combo was assessed on forward Ron Moner when Novakovic scored his third goal of the game at 13:12 of the second for a 5-3 Avon advantage.
“Benedictine came out flying,” said Novakovic. “I don’t think we warmed up well and weren’t prepared at the beginning of the game. We kept talking on the bench about what was going well and what was going bad. We tried figuring out on how to cut down on the bad things. We started getting into their lanes, started passing better and got a lot of good shots on goal.”
Defenseman Dennis Robinson cut the Avon lead to 5-4 by knocking home his own rebound at 7:48 of the third. The Eagles answered less than two minutes later at 9:39 on junior Neal Novotny’s goal. Avon had to sweat out one more penalty-killing situation, but did so successfully.
“We had a serious talk during the first intermission,” said Eagle coach Nick Novakovic, Eric’s dad. “It’s bad enough that you’re not playing well on the power-play, but to give up two short-handed goals really stuck a knife in our back. But to our credit, our kids fought back.”
Benedictine out-shot Avon 22-18 over the first two periods before the Eagles reigned with a 13-6 margin in the third period.
Avon will need all the firepower it can muster against Parma. The Redmen defeated the Eagles, 3-1, on Dec. 23.
“We were playing with less than nine players, only 7-8 players this past month until this week,” said Benedictine sixth-year coach Frank Malec. “That’s taking a toll on us. It’s hard to skate in the third period at the level you need to play against tough teams.
“Avon’s a good team. They skated very hard and they skate well. We need a couple more guys to skate against a team like Avon.”
Avon 6, Benedictine 4
FIRST PERIOD: 1. B, Mike Adamowski (unassisted) – short-handed. 5:27; 2 B, Tom Hongosh (Joe Kolenic, Adamowski, 7:10; 1. A, Eric\ Novakovic (unassisted), 8:11; 3. B, Kolenic (Ron Moner, Dennis Robinson) – short-handed, 12:31; 2. A, Novakovic (Neal Novotny) – power play, 12:41; 3. A, Joe Goetz (unassisted), 13:44; 4. A, Alex Guzik (Hayden McDougald,), 14:39. Penalties — A, McDougald (elbowing), 2:54; B, Robinson (hooking), 4:15; B, Hongosh (interference), 10:55; A, Nick Stevens (interference), 14:48.
SECOND PERIOD: 5. A, Novakovic (Guzik, McDougald), 13:12. Penalties – A, Dominic Bowlin (checking from behind, minor plus 10-minute misconduct), 4:14; B. Robinson (holding): B, Eric Radivoyetich (holding, plus 10-minute misconduct), 13:12; A, McDougald (interference), 14:39.
THIRD PERIOD: 4. B, Robinson (unassisted), 7:48; 6. A, Novotny (Guzik, McDougald), 9:39. Penalties: – A, Novakovic (hooking), 10:18.
Benedictine 3 0 1 — 4
Avon 4 1 1 — 6
Shots on goal: Benedictine 10-12-6—28, Avon 9-9-13—31. Goalies: (B) Joe Houser (31 shots, 25 saves); (A) Joe Sefchik (28 shots, 24 saves). Power-play opportunities: Benedictine 0 of 4, Avon 1 of 2.
Contact Paul Heyse at 329-7135 or email@example.com.