Rookies pace Wolves in workmanlike win over River Dragons

WATERTOWN — Credit Colin Chmelka and the Watertown Wolves with a workmanlike effort Friday night that generated a victory.

Chmelka scored the go-ahead goal and fellow rookie and goalie Breandan Colgan made 22 saves, as the Wolves outlasted the Columbus River Dragons, 4-2, before a spirited crowd of 711 at Watertown Municipal Arena.

League-leading Watertown (7-2) extended its winning streak to four games and has now won six of its past seven outings.

“Seeing a new team, I think it kind of proves in this league, we can beat anybody in this league,” Chmelka said. “It showed we can play defensive hockey as well. We know we can put the puck in the net, but I think it showed that we can play defensive hockey and really take care of the defensive zone.”

Wolves team captain Justin MacDonald scored a goal and assisted on another, including assisting on Chmelka’s tally.

Chmelka followed up on his initial shot, which was blocked by a defenseman, and scored to stake Watertown to a 2-1 edge five minutes and six seconds into the second period.

“I got a lucky, fortitious bounce, but I’ll take it,” said Chmelka, who wore a hard hat after being named the team’s player of the game.

“He wasn’t even supposed to go out there and I was like ‘nope, you’re going,’” Wolves coach Brent Clarke said of Chmelka. “I had this feeling and he went out there and scored instantly and he just looked at me like that was a good call right there. So that was kind of cool.”

MacDonald provided his team with a 3-1 lead as he scored on a wrister at the top of the slot, with Alexander Jameff assisting, just 52 seconds into the third period.

This effort proved to be the game-winner for Watertown, which won the first of a two-game set against Columbus (3-3-2).

Watertown then denied Columbus on its first power play of the night after being assessed a too many men on the ice penalty.

“It was a new test, we haven’t seen these guys, I thought it was a pretty good game,” Clarke said. “I think both teams were coming off some Thanksgiving turkey there for a while, but it wasn’t a bad effort.”

Colgan stopped nine of 10 shots faced in the third period to finish off the win, his third with the team.

“They had some tough shots, but defensively I think we played great,” Colgan said. “I didn’t have too many tough ones and they made it an easy game for me.”

“I thought he made some really good saves,” Clarke said. “It was a squeaker there at the end, but it happens.”

Columbus drew to within 3-2 on Hunter Bersani’s goal with 3:59 left in regulation, but Ryan Devine added an empty-net goal with 51 seconds left.

MacDonald came into the night tied for the league lead in goals with Jmaeff and several others.

Columbus led 1-0 on Jake Grade’s drive from the deep right point 8:23 into the game.

The Wolves then tied it on rookie Troy Taylor’s power-play goal with 8:17 left in the period from the deep left point with 12 seconds left in the man advantage.

The two teams will square off again at 7:30 tonight at the Fairgrounds Arena.

“I just feel like I’m getting into a groove right now and I just want to keep it going,” Colgan added. “The guys have been playing really well and it shows.”

n NOTES: Taylor’s goal was his first pro tally. … His goal was the first of the season for Devine, a veteran player who played for the Watertown Privateers back in the 2013-14 season. … Watertown forward Michael Mercurio was promoted to the Vermillion Wildcats of the SPHL. The team is located in Danville, Ill., home of the FPHL’s Danville Dashers through last season.

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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