WATERTOWN — After generating a dominant victory on opening night, the Watertown Wolves quickly faced a gut check Saturday night.
Yet after yielding three unanswered goals in the first period, the Wolves didn’t respond well in a 5-2 loss to the Binghamton Black Bears before a crowd of 501 at Watertown Municipal Arena.
A night after defeating Binghamton, 6-3, in the season opener for both teams, Watertown followed with a slow start, which carried over into disappointing effort by its early-season standards.
“It’s good to come in cocky, but I think we came in a little too cocky and just thought it was going to be another cakewalk,” Watertown team captain Justin MacDonald said. “Right from the get-go, they scored three straight in the first and that makes it extremely tough to come back for the rest of the game.”
“We just played soft and that’s not our team,” Watertown coach Brent Clarke said. “We’re a tougher team than that and we just let them push us around.”
Nikita Ivashkin and Josh Newberg each scored a pair of goals to propel Binghamton, which won its first game in the Federal Prospects Hockey League.
While opposition set the pace from the start, the Wolves struggled to answer with positive energy.
“Obviously we didn’t respond like we were supposed to, so it’s tough for sure,” Wolves’ forward Lane King said. “Hopefully this will a learning lesson for us.”
The Black Bears seized their first lead of the young season on Ivashkin’s power-play goal 7:24 into the game with 11 seconds remaining in the man advantage.
Just 24 seconds later, Newberg scored as his drive went off the goal post and in for a 2-0 advantage. The goal also chased Wolves rookie goalie Tristen Gillispie.
“I thought we could still come back, but you can’t start a hockey game down 2-0 on the first two shots, you have to be better back there,” Clarke said. “I thought there were some soft goals tonight.”
Ivashkin followed with his second goal, also with Tyler Becker assisting, with 53 seconds left in the period.
“They had all the momentum and everything and we let our goalies hung out to dry and our (defensive zone) was horrendous,” MacDonald said.
“We’re skilled, we had chances to score, but give credit to their goalie,” Clarke said. “He played well and I just think we were way too soft in front of both nets.”
Things got worse for the Wolves as Newberg scored on a partial breakaway, moving in alone and beating Colgan for a 4-0 lead 5:08 into the second period.
“We need to come out hungrier and show them that we want it,” MacDonald said. “You see teams do that all the time, they wait too long in the game to come out and play and start too late.”
One bright spot for Watertown was when area native and rookie Brennan Ash scored on a rebound with 7:24 left in the second period while playing in his first pro game.
“He’s a great kid, he works super hard, which is a positive,” King said of Ash, who is from Copenhagen.. “He got in the lineup tonight and made the most of his chances and I couldn’t be happier for him. A hard worker who will do anything for the team, it’s guys like that kind of keep the engine running and give us that jump of energy.”
Breandan Colgan, who recorded his first pro win on Friday, stopped 24 of 27 shots in relief of Gillispie.
Goalie Joseph Sheppard made 41 saves to record the win which also represented the first victory for Binghamton, which is an expansion team.
“Obviously it’s frustrating,” King said. “I think in the first period defensively we struggled a little bit, but I think offensively we had a lot of chances. Their goalie made some good saves, but momentum can turn pretty quickly if we bury one of those Grade-A chances there in the first period.”
Clarke said: “It’s early, but we’re young. We’re just a young team and we’ve got a couple veterans, but one of our veterans thinks he’s too cool for school right now, so he’s going to be set straight this week for sure.”
Watertown now will embark on its first road trip of the season as it will play at the Carolina Thunderbirds next Friday and Saturday.
“It sucks, we always want to sweep a weekend, especially at home,” MacDonald said. “We’re not home again for a couple weeks, so it’s not a good feeling and that just means we’ll be hungrier the next home game that we have and make sure to finish and do the job right.”
“We need some jam,” Clarke added. “Our smaller guys for some reason are our toughest guys and it shouldn’t be that way.”
n NOTES: Watertown veteran defenseman Justin Coachman didn’t play as he served the first game of a four-game suspension after he was assessed a major penalty and a game misconduct for contact to the head early in the second period of Friday’s game. “It hurts not having Coachman because he logs a lot of minutes for us,” Clarke said. “I don’t think the hit was that bad.
... McKechney’s goal was his first pro tally. ... The 21-year-old Ash played the previous two seasons with the Utica Junior Comets and with the Syracuse Junior Stars, both of the USPHL Premier League, the two seasons before that. ... The Wolves will next play at home on Nov. 19 in a 7:30 p.m. start against the Danbury Hat Tricks.