Nathan Hendrix provided the fireworks in the middle, and Gabriel Vendetti provided the scoring late.
The Francis Howell Central dazzling duo each scored a pair of goals to lead the slow-starting Spartans to a 7-4 Mid-States Club Hockey triumph over Mary Institute/Country Day School Thursday night at Queeny Recreational Complex.
Stumbling out of the gate has been a habit for Howell Central early this season (5-3-1). That was evident against MICDS as the Spartans found themselves down a goal early in the second period.
“That’s kind of been the thing with the team this year is the first period, we have a little trouble coming out of the gate pretty hard,” Howell Central coach Adam Saito said. “Usually, come second period the kids figure out what they need to work on.”
Junior forward Ryan Turkin, who scored two goals for MICDS, put the Rams up 1-0 with a goal just 2:57 into the second period.
Hendrix, a senior defenseman, woke up the Spartans with a goal to tie it 1-1 with 9:44 left in the period.
Then just 20 seconds later, Hendrix struck again with a second goal off a loose puck inside the MICDS blue line and scored again for a 2-1 lead.
“I was just on fire I guess (after the first one) and way hyped-up, energetic, came out and wanted another one,” Hendrix said. “I saw my opportunity, flipped it up, grabbed it and took my shot.”
“Fortunately, with Hendrix, we have a defense that can shoot and it’s good to see our defense actually score some goals,” Saito. “The majority of our goals this season have come from five or six feet in front of the net, so it’s nice to see some shots from near the blue line.”
Vendetti then added the first of his two goals at 6:17 of the period to make it 3-1.
MICDS (2-3-2) pulled within 3-2 on a goal from Alexander Bean with 3:32 left in the second period but Central defenseman Matthew Gregg and forward Joshua Stewart tallied goals to close out a five-goal second period and give the Spartans a 5-2 edge.
The Rams were hard-working throughout but simply did not have the firepower, or speed to stay with a faster, more aggressive Spartans group on this night.
“We were off tonight,” MICDS coach Daniel Herr said. “What has made us successful so far is the passing and positioning and somehow, we were running around tonight and weren’t connecting with the passes and a couple of mistakes and a couple of penalties and we were off tonight.”
Vendetti’s second goal pushed the count to 6-2 early in the third period.
“Vendetti, he’s a workhorse,” Saito said. “We can always count on him to bring 100 percent and he’s great on the penalty kill.”
Bean scored his second goal of the night on a power play to get MICDS within 6-4 with 6:49 left.
After that, Howell Central settled down defensively and Jacon Guilstorf added an empty-net goal with 26 seconds left to close it out.
Although the Rams had some good moments and came up short, Herr, whose club has been in virtually every game so far this season, believes they will bounce back soon enough. MICDS takes on Clayton on Saturday at 8:15 p.m.
“The pace was a little too quick for us tonight and we couldn’t catch up,” Herr said. “We go again Saturday and we’ll go against Clayton.”
Howell Central returns to action Saturday with an 8:45 p.m. tilt against Duchesne.