Crowning achievement

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WATERTOWN — A night after clinching first place in the league, the Watertown Wolves experienced a rare home loss.

The Wolves squandered a three-goal lead in the third period and Nikita Andrusenko scored the only goal of the shootout to lift the Delaware Thunder to a 6-5 triumph Saturday in a Federal Prospects Hockey League game before a turnout of 879 at Watertown Municipal Arena.

League-leading Watertown (40-11-3) suffered just its third loss at home in 27 games this season at the Fairgrounds.

“It’s frustrating,” Wolves assistant captain Lane King said. “Like we just talked about after the game, we’ve got to learn to close games. We’re in first and we clinched it last night, but to blow a 5-2 lead in the third with five games left is tough.”

Last-place Delaware (7-39-2) won its first game against the Wolves this season after losing the previous five meetings, including an 8-1 road loss Friday.

Alexander Jmaeff scored four goals on the night, including a power-play tally four minutes and 25 seconds into the third period, to provide Watertown with a 5-2 lead.

But the Thunder responded by scoring twice within a span of 14 seconds to draw within one goal on a tally each from former Wolves player Ryan Marker and Kevin Auger to draw within 5-4 with 11:41 left in regulation.

Then with their goalie pulled for an extra attacker, Delaware’s Ilya Bobko followed with the tying goal with 1:02 remaining in regulation.

“I think we got up 5-2 and we kind of just mailed it in,” King said. “Teams like that that work hard if you let them hang around, and a couple bounces go their way, and they get a goal in the last minute and then we lose it in the shootout. So I hope it is a lesson and hopefully we can take that to heart.”

After a scoreless overtime during which Thunder goalie Greg Harney made three saves, Andrusenko converted in the third round of the shootout by beating Wolves goalie Luke Cohen with a wrister.

“We’ve just got to close out games better and guys started to try and do too much, and to be honest, we didn’t play anybody tonight,” Watertown coach Brent Clarke said. “We were just out there trying to put on a show and try and win a hockey game, but the game meant nothing.”

Jmaeff and Rocco DiConstanzo were both unsuccessful on each of their two attempts in five-round shootout and teammate Colin Chmelka was also denied.

On a night after league-leading Watertown clinched the top seed for the playoffs, it was unable to finish off a two-game series sweep.

“I ripped them a new one, because it’s still bull (bleep),” Clarke said of the outcome. We’re a better hockey team even without guys in the lineup. We were up 5-2 and how do you blow that lead? Why, because we were selfish and guys wanted to do their own thing and that’s not going to fly come playoff time.”

Watertown team captain Justin MacDonald did not play as he was a healthy scratch. MacDonald served as assistant coach behind the bench a night after he scored his 60th goal of the season, which is a franchise record.

“So we can we use it in a negative way or use it as a wakeup call and I think we’ll do the latter,” King said of the loss.

The Wolves led 1-0 as Jmaeff scored 14 seconds into their first power-play of the game on a blast from the right point, with Ryan Devine assisting 5:50 into the first period. The Thunder tied the game on Alex Soucy’s goal with 4:56 left in the period.

Delaware took a 2-1 lead on Dan Cangelosi’s goal just 25 seconds into the second period, with Marker assisting.

After Jmaeff scored 8:26 into the period, with Cole McKechney assisting, Chmelka provided the Wolves with a 3-2 advantage as he scored 25 seconds into a Watertown power play with 6:05 left in the period, which was also assisted by McKechney. Jmaeff then struck for his third goal of the night with 3:31 left in the frame for a 4-2 lead.

Cohen stopped 31 of 36 shots faced, including making a pair of saves in overtime, for the Wolves.

The Wolves wore special cancer awareness jerseys, which were white with pink trim, and numbers and were auctioned off after the game.

After playing at Danbury at 7 p.m. Wednesday, the Wolves will play at Delaware next Friday and Saturday.

“Obviously we accomplished what we wanted to accomplish, our first goal was to clinch home-ice advantage and we did that,” said King, who recorded four assists. “I think this is a small speed bump, obviously, and overall it’s been a really good year, we’ve got to get more consistent in the last four or five games going into the playoffs.”

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