Woollies 3, Renegades of Puck 1

Renegades of Puck Renegades drop third straight in an all-too-familiar goaltending matchup, haunted by mental miscues

FALL 2023 - WEEK 7WOOLLIESRENEGADES OF PUCK

Aaron Froats

10/8/20236 min read

The Renegades appeared to be back to form as they entered Week 7. After a drumming by the Puck Buddies in Week 5, they looked more composed and in sync in their 3-2 loss last week to the Bobcats. The Renegades were looking for a repeat of their Week 3 win over the Woollies. The Woollies had not scored a goal in the previous two games and it wasn't going to be any easier this week with Aaron Froats in net, facing off against Omar Soliman for the fifth time this season.

Out of the gate, the black sweaters of the Renegades of Puck were on the attack. It looked like a puck was destined for the back of the net on the first shift, but Soliman managed to fight off the early onslaught. The Renegades kept the pressure on, keeping the puck in the Woollies zone for almost the first half of the opening frame, when Froats finally faced his first shot at the 5:45 mark. It would be a relatively slow first period for Froats, who only faced five in the frame, but it wasn't an easy five shots. With about four minutes left on the clock, a Woollies forward broke loose around the corner and into the Renegades zone. A step on the defense was all that was needed as the Renegades netminder was facing a makeshift breakaway. As he moved out to the top of the crease and to his left, Froats managed to stop the five-hole shot and keep the scoresheet clean. At the other end, the top line of Chris Brady, substitute Adam Glasgow, and Zack McCann were making life difficult for the Woollies defense. Moving the puck crisply and with speed, anytime the trio was on the ice, the puck stayed down in the visitor's zone. After a change to the second line late in the period, the first infraction of the game was called as Renegades forward TJ Nielson was whistled for an interference penalty along the far boards in the neutral zone. It appeared to be more of a scrap for the puck and uneasiness on the skates for a couple of the involved players, but the hand went up nonetheless and the ensuing faceoff would take place to Froats's right in the Renegades zone. Off the draw, Scott Timpe won the puck back to the point where defensive sub Joel Patnode awaited. A wrister through traffic was well played by Froats, but the rebound lied out in front of the crease where Timpe cleaned up the mess for the first goal of the game, seven seconds into the powerplay. The goal was Timpe's second of the season and the first powerplay goal against for the Renegades in the fall session.

Despite the fantastic display of goaltending when Froats and Soliman faceoff, the second period of Thursday's game between the Woollies and Renegades of Puck would mark the first period that the goaltenders would both keep the goal light cold. Froats faced the bulk of the shots in the second, facing seven to Soliman's four, but both goalies would make a highlight-reel stop as they are known to do. Halfway through the second, Froats made a decision on a loose puck that was slowly making its way into his zone. Dashing out to meet the streaking forward, Froats lunged for the puck knocking it out of the zone and taking the player with him. Not to be outdone, later in the stanza, star forward Jon Bellucci came streaking down the near boards flying by the Woollies defense. As he turned the corner at the faceoff dot, he ripped a wrister that Soliman managed to clip with his right shoulder and send to the netting. The game would stay in the visiting squad's favor entering the third.

The Renegades were hellbent on shirking the passive hockey that had plagued them for a bulk of the season. The team was only averaging an anemic three goals per contest entering the night, a full half-goal less than the summer session. The team needed a jolt and they came out firing. Soliman got a steady diet of shots from the home team, steering them aside and keeping his team in the lead. Unfortunately, the restlessness of the Renegades would lead to a mental error that would cost them. The team had been rotating well all night when the defense would pinch into the zone, but about four and a half minutes in, an assignment was blown. On loan from the Classics, forward Matt McSpadden took advantage of an empty point and a tired defensive pair. Despite Tom Buysse attempting to backcheck, McSpadden was off to the races, flying in on Froats from center ice. Froats appeared to have matched the speed of the forward and was in good position, but the quick snapshot beat the netminder five-hole to extend the lead to 2-0. The way Soliman had been playing up to this point, that looked like more than enough. However, hanging on to avoid their first three-game losing streak as a member of the NAIHL, leadership stepped up. Froats would face a point-blank shot to his right with about six minutes left on the clock, losing his stick in the process to keep the deficit at two. The puck cleared the zone and the Renegades went back to work. A stoppage by Soliman led to a Renegades faceoff, where Bellucci would win the draw back to captain Charlie Saunier. Saunier uncoiled a wrist shot from the point that couldn't have been thrown better, scoring top left corner over Soliman's right shoulder, cutting the lead to one. The goal would be Saunier's first as a member of the Renegades and it couldn't come at a better time.

As time began to tick down, the home team was running out of chances. Froats and Saunier could be seen exchanging looks as the clock dipped below two minutes, as the Renegades continued to pepper the Woollies' goalie. Soliman would cover the puck with just under 90 seconds to play leading to a Renegades timeout and Froats taking a seat on the bench. Soliman seemed to grow in size at this point because nothing was getting by him, except for yet another shot by the captain, only for it to ring off the post. One could feel the pressure mounting behind the home team's attack when the referee's arm went up for only the second time in the game. Swinging back towards the offensive zone, forward Bryce Levet was sent to the box for tripping with only 38.7 seconds left in regulation. This meant a defensive zone faceoff for the Renegades, putting Froats back into the net. A clean win by the black sweaters had Bellucci charging down the near boards with Froats making a beeline for the bench. There was a miscommunication as Froats arrived; however, as both Glasgow and Buysse hopped over the boards. With the home bench screaming for Buysse to return to the bench, the team was fortunate not to be whistled for too many men as they made one last attack. Buysee finally conceded to the bench, but even so, Soliman would not relinquish another goal. The Woollies would tack on an empty net powerplay goal with only six seconds remaining to seal the win, 3-1.

The win marks the Woollies' second of the fall season, doubling their win total from the previous campaign. Their 2-5-0 record places them in a three-way tie at the bottom of the standings with Your Mother in Law and next week's opponent, Tenacious D. The pair of teams will meet for the second time this season on Wednesday, with the Woollies taking their other win of the season off Tenacious D in Week 2 by score of 4-3. By virtue of the Bobcats' OT loss in the opening week of the season, the Renegades sit firmly in fifth in the league table at 3-4-0. It is going to be imperative that Saunier's club start putting pucks in the back of the net and stay out of the box closing out the season. His squad only has 19 goals through the seven weeks thus far, less than three per game, and are tied for the league-lead in penalties with 16 minutes on the campaign. The schedule doesn't help them either, as they face the 6-1-0 Norse next Thursday at 8:15, followed by Your Mother in Law, but closing out the regular season against the Puck Buddies on October 26. While it isn't like Saunier to make changes to his lineup after chemistry has been developed, we could see some different line combinations next week to right the ship.