WATERTOWN — With plenty of familiar faces on the opposing side Friday night, this should have inspired the Watertown Wolves.
The opposite proved to be true as the Columbus River Dragons, laden with nine former Wolves, rolled to a 7-3 win over Watertown in a Federal Prospects Hockey League clash before a crowd of 1,008 at Watertown Municipal Arena.
Forward CJ Hayes and goalie Jared Rutledge helped lead the way for Columbus.
“I felt really good, I really enjoy seeing my old teammates and I have a lot of respect for those guys,” Rutledge said. “It’s a lot of fun to play against them, it’s always competitive. It’s nice to be back.”
Hayes scored a goal to spark four-goal outburst in the second period for the River Dragons, and Rutledge stopped 30 of 33 shots faced to record the win.
“It was good, obviously when you play your old team you always want to play a good game and do whatever you can to beat them,” said Hayes, who played with Watertown two seasons ago. “So it was nice getting the win and try to come in (today) with the same thing.”
Any momentum the Wolves had built with their overtime win at home against Elmira last weekend was shortlived Friday night.
“We were a little flat in the first (period), I think,” Watertown coach Paul MacLean said. “In the beginning, we had two power plays and tried to be too cute, by trying to make the perfect pass or perfect shot, instead of just getting pucks to the net.”
Columbus, an expansion team, has won two of three meetings with Watertown.
“I think they played a good road game,” MacLean said of Columbus. “But I don’t think we brought our ‘A’ game tonight, ... At the end of the day, we’ve just got to be better.”
The game also developed into a melee in the final period with the River Dragons comfortably ahead.
Wolves newcomer Justin Nattress fought early in the period and veteran Watertown enforcer Chase Tippin then fought with Preston Kugler, who played for the Wolves early this season.
“It’s a little extra motivation for both sides, I think,” said Rutledge, who is currently part of a goalie tandem with former Wolves netminder Cody Karpinski as both played for Watertown last season. “The game was hard fought.”
The game was already out of hand for Watertown (15-13), which has now lost four of its past five games, with two of those losses on home ice.
“This is a tough one to take, we started out really flat,” Watertown rookie forward Michael Desjarlais said. “We have to learn as a team after efforts like this one.”
After Columbus forged a 1-0 lead in the opening period, the River Dragons struck for four goals within a span of 5 minutes and 15 seconds in the second period, including a pair from Parker Moskal within seven seconds, to seize control.
“Absolutely, getting the lead was crucial for us,” Rutledge said. “We know they have a lot of firepower, we’ve got to respect that.”
Columbus led 1-0 on Jay Croop’s goal 10:40 into the game, with Kugler assisting.
Hayes then provided the River Dragons with a 2-0 advantage as he tapped in a feed from Parker Moskal 5:15 into the second period, with former Wolves forward Cameron Dimmitt also assisting.
Moskal then struck for two goals within a span of seven seconds as after scored 7:02 into the period, he scored again from the left side for a 4-0 River Dragons lead.
The fourth goal chased Wolves starting goalie Jeremy Pominville, who faced 21 shots.
Columbus then rudely greeted Watertown goalie Will Harvey as Ivan Bondarenko followed with a goal with 9:30 left in the period for a 5-0 lead.
Watertown averted the potential shutout when Jamie Lukas scored with 2:46 left in the second period.
“I got mad between the second and third (periods),” MacLean said. “I tried to light a fire, but now we’ve got to put this one behind us. You’ve got to come with a sense of urgency and bring your best game.”
After Bondarenko scored a power-play goal early in the third period for a 701
Desjarlais followed with an unassisted goal on a backhander with 12:23 left in regulation and after Columbus scored back-to-back goals from Bondarenko and former Wolves forward Anton Lennartsson for a 7-2 lead, Watertown’s Deric Boudreau scored a power-play goal with 6:25 left.
Columbus (12-16) has won four of its past five games, including a 5-4 overtime win over Watertown on Jan. 4 in Georgia.
“I think our team’s starting to click,” Hayes said. “Obviously it’s a brand new organization, a brand new team, guys are coming in and out. So it’s tough to get chemistry sometimes, but once you start clicking, it’s pretty hard to beat.”
Columbus and Watertown will tangle again at 7:30 tonight at the Fairgrounds arena.
“When you always play your old team, you always want to put your best game out there,” Hayes said. “It’s good to see the guys out there that I played with, but at the same time, once you step onto the ice you’re no longer friends.”
n NOTES: Nattress, the son of former standout NHL defenseman Ric Nattress, played in his first home game with Watertown. ... Also skating in the game for Columbus were former Watertown players Yianni Liarakos, Tim Santopoalo and Aleh Shypitsyn. ... The Wolves signed forward Scott Dorion on Thursday and was in the lineup Friday. Also on Friday, forward Joe Deveny was assigned to Watertown by Birmingham of the SPHL. ... Rutledge had lost his previous start against Watertown in a 6-4 decision on Jan. 3 in Georgia. ... Hayes has scored a goal in his past seven games with Columbus.