WATERTOWN — Following a disappointing and lackluster season-opening loss to Mentor the night before, the Watertown Wolves bounced back in a big way on Saturday.
The Wolves played the way their new coach Paul MacLean wants them to play, setting the tone with a gritty, physical effort that led the way to a much-needed 3-1 victory over Mentor in a Federal Hockey League triumph at Watertown Municipal Arena.
Rookie goalie Jeremy Pominville made 30 saves as Watertown shut down Mentor for most of the night. Winger Tyler Gjurich scored a pair of goals, assisted on another and center Deric Boudreau tallied what was the eventual game-winning goal to spark the Wolves, who provided MacLean with his first coaching win with Watertown.
But along with Pominville’s play, it was Watertown’s physical presence and play along the boards that really impressed McLean.
“Last night, I think we didn’t play with a lot of emotion,” MacLean said. “It wasn’t like a blowout, but tonight the biggest thing was we put together a lineup where we were banging out there, we were working the body along boards. We were really physical tonight, which is nice to see.”
For the second straight night, the Wolves scored first against the Ice Breakers, but this time made the lead hold up.
“You know what, the first one is always the hardest,” MacLean said of the win. “I think what we have here is a good mixture of guys. I think we have character, I think we have skill and I think we have toughness. I think we have an interesting group that shows promise.”
“Friday was the first game of the season,” Boudreau said. “Now we just came back with a vengeance and I think we came out strong and showed how good we can play.”
Rookie goalie Austyn Roudebush, who backstopped Mentor to a 3-1 win at Watertown the night before, finished with 33 saves.
But Pominville stopped 27 of 28 shots over the final two periods on Saturday to record the win.
“Getting the first win out of the way is always a big relief,” Pominville said. “But I thought we played awesome tonight, so the guys made it easy for me, to be honest.”
Gjurich provided the Wolves with a 1-0 lead with a power-play goal, as he scored from the left faceoff circle, firing a drive off goalie Roudebush’s glove with 2:26 left in the first period.
“Exactly, that gets everyone going,” Pominville said of the goal. “And then one thing leads to another and the next thing you know, it’s a big win.”
Watertown cashed in with its first man-advantage goal of the season after fending off three Mentor power players earlier in the opening period.
“We said the first night, we knew that they are a hard-working team and we knew we had to match their intensity,” Gjurich said of Mentor. “We’re a much more skilled team then them and we looked like it tonight — and we had better intensity.”
The Wolves built a two-goal lead in the second period as Boudreau tipped in a feed from Lane King up top and over Roudebush with 3:03 left in the period. “It started in the d-zone and then we had a great breakout,” Boudreau said. “It came up to King and he made a beautiful pass back door, it was good. It was a good momentum change with us going up 2-0.”
Mentor drew within 2-1 on Alexander Morrow’s goal with 1:19 remaining, just after Roudebush skated to the bench and an extra attacker hit the ice for the Ice Breakers.
After the faceoff, Roudebush headed to the bench with 1:08 to play and Pominville followed by making four saves the rest of the way.
“I think Pomer played great for us tonight and we had to step up for him also,” Boudreau said.
“Pominville played great, he’s an underrated goalie,” MacLean said. “He played well in juniors and college, so he has good experience. I thought he played great this weekend and their goalie played, well, too.”
Gjurich was then able to clear the puck, which found its way all the way down the ice and into the empty Mentor net for a 3-1 Watertown advantage with 19.8 seconds remaining.
“I think overall as a team only letting in one goal tonight, we played solid defensive zone and also offensive zone,” Boudreau said. “We followed the system and all that training camp hard work, because we had like two weeks of hard work, that paid off two nights in a row. So we’re excited.”
Saturday’s outcome was a welcome one for the Wolves, who faced the potential prospect of losing the first two games of their season on home ice.
“I want to give everybody here an opportunity, so we’ll see how it goes,” MacLean added. “So far, so good.”
n NOTES: Wolves rookie defenseman Bryce Litke assisted on Gjurich’s second goal to record his first pro point. ... Boudreau totaled 27 points, including nine goals, in 19 games as a rookie with the Wolves last season and also scored twice in two playoff games with the team. ... Watertown is carrying three goalies as rookie Mate Garbacz backed up Pominville after Blake Scott dressed behind Pominville on Friday. ... Wolves’ rookie forwards Michael and Dallas Desjarlais started the game on the same line on the wings, with Cameron Dimmitt at center. Both Desjarlais brothers made their pro debuts on Friday night.
... A night after wearing their traditional red Friday home jerseys, Watertown wore its primary home jerseys, which this season are black with blue trim. ... The Wolves will return to action when they host the Port Huron Prowlers next Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at the Fairgrounds arena.