Thankfully, for the Wildcats, forward Levi Wright and goalie Samuel Haupfear were ready to answer the challenge.
Wright erupted for four goals and an assist and Haupear held the Spartans scoreless for nearly two and half periods, as Westminster rolled to a 6-1 victory on Monday night at St. Peters Rec Plex.
“We just needed to win,” Wright said. “That’s what I thought we needed to do. We needed to score and we needed to win.”
Scoring is what Wright spent plenty of time doing against Howell Central. The smooth-skating senior forward gave the Wildcats the lead with a goal in the first period and then followed that up with a second period hat-trick to finish the night with five points.
The speedy Wildcats outshot the Spartans 22-4 in the first two periods and 35-10 for the game. “We were just getting shots on the net and going for the rebounds and it just worked out for us,” Wright said. “It just worked out in our favor. We got a couple of rebounds too.”
Parkway South was a physical challenge the Wildcats, but Howell Central was not as big, strong or skilled. It was a better draw for Westminster.
“Our focus was to shoot the puck and just crash the net,” Westminster coach Dean Penberthy said. “Just try to put as much pressure on them as we can and that was what we did. We had a different opponent and that helped.”
Wright put the Wildcats on top at 10:46 of the first period on an even strength goal to make it 1-0.
Then the Wildcats heated up for three goals in a five minute and a half minute span in the second period as Wright scored two more times and Joseph Schroeder scored off an assist from Wright and Dylan Wells, booting the lead to 4-0 with 1:29 left in the second period.
Wright finished out the period with his fourth and final tally of the evening.
Howell Central (9-14-1) got a strong effort in goal from senior keeper Michael Gregg, but Wright and his teammates were just a little too much to handle in the second stanza.
“They have some really, really talented kids that when we would keep pressure on and be in their zone for a bit then they would have real quick rush and that kid would get free and pop one in,” Howell Central coach Chris Wirtel said. “He (Wright) is a tough guy to face because he can change everything so quickly.”
While the Wildcats were busy filling up the Howell Central goal with pucks, Haupfear did nice job of rebounding from a disappointing playoff opener. The senior netminder stopped nine shots in goal and held the Spartans scoreless for 38 minutes, 9 seconds.
“Being able to have better shot location helped,” Haupfear said. “Last game, they got a lot breakaways and lot of shots from right in front of the net. This game all the shots were easy to see coming from the side and the defense was able to shut off those rushes.”
Michael Woll scored an unassisted goal at the 4:44 mark of the third period to close out the Westminster scoring.
Grant Curtis scored the Spartans lone goal with 6:51 left to play. Logan Oliver assisted on it.
Westminster (10-9-4) looks to advance to the second round of the playoffs, on Tuesday with a win against C division foe Rockwood Summit. The teams split a pair of games against each other in the regular season.
Francis Howell Central was eliminated with the loss as the Spartans went 0-3 in the playoffs.
Still, playing in the Wickenheiser Cup was better than being in last season’s Founders Cup final.
“I was so proud of the effort and they played really hard tonight,” Wirtel said. “We were in the Founders last year and nobody wanted to be there and everybody was just happy to be back in the Wick this year and actually give ourselves something to be proud of this year.”