Three Watertown players suspended by FPHL

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WATERTOWN — With the Watertown Wolves playing their first game in more than 19 months, a quartet of newcomers led the way from the start.

In the team’s regular-season return, Colin Chmelka, Rocco DiCostanzo and Alexander Jmaeff each scored a goal in the first period and goalie Breandan Colgan went on to make 25 saves — with all four as rookies — as the Wolves downed the Binghamton Black Bears in resounding fashion, 6-3, on Friday night in a Federal Prospects Hockey League clash at Watertown Municipal Arena.

“It feels great, man, first pro win, it feels great to be out there with the boys again, it’s been too long,” Chmelka, a forward, said.

The Wolves last played a regular season game on March 12, 2020 in Elmira in what proved to be the last pro hockey game in North America that season as the campaign was canceled several days later by the league because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s awesome to be back,” Wolves team captain Justin MacDonald said. “We came out buzzing and they came out hard, too, and it was nothing like the first time we played them in the exhibition game. We could see that it was going to be much more of a harder challenge, they came out well, but we had to match that and get better and that’s what we did.”

Friday night’s game also represented the return of spectators to the Fairgrounds Arena for pro hockey, with an announced crowd of 859.

“Absolutely, it’s good to see the fans going,” Watertown coach Brent Clarke said. “We had a great crowd tonight and that was our first game from a team we just put together about a week ago.”

Chmelka finished with two goals and Colgan recorded his first win as both made their pro debuts.

“It’s been two years of not playing real hockey, just pickup hockey, beer league if you want to call it that,” Chmelka said. “So this is unreal this experience, it’s great to be back.”

Chmelka got things started by scoring nine minutes and eight seconds into the game with another newcomer, Cole McKechney, assisting.

“It was a good way to get the boys going, it was a great play by McKechney,” Chmelka, a Colorado native, said. “He passed it to me and I just got lucky, I closed my eyes.”

Just 53 seconds later, DiConstanzo followed with a power-play goal, scoring just six seconds into the man advantage, with Johnny Bonta and Troy Taylor assisting.

“A couple power plays helped us and penalties are going to happen throughout the year so special teams is huge,” MacDonald said. “We kept building up each period and getting better, better and better and came out with a good win.”

The Wolves led 3-0 on Jmaeff’s goal with 1:15 remaining in the opening period, with MacDonald assisting.

“We were fired up after that start for us,” Colgan said.

After Binghamton drew within 3-1 on Tyler Becker’s goal 2:47 into the second period, Wolves veteran defenseman Justin Coachman was ejected from the game after he was assessed a game misconduct for contact to the head,

The Black Bears pulled within 3-2 on Nikita Ivashkin’s goal with 1:01 left in the major penalty, but MacDonald provided Watertown with a two-goal lead with his goal at 8:32, assisted by Lane King.

Colgan, a Pennsylvania native, made 19 of his saves over the final two periods to record the win.

“It’s been about a year and a half like a lot of other guys, but once I got into it I felt great,” Colgan said. “It felt like I never stopped, so I felt really good. And we’re already pretty close as a team and it’s only been a week, so it’s a good start to the year.”

King later fought with Binghamton goalie Harley White with 2:59 remaining in the second period. Chmelka then added his second goal for a 5-2 advantage with 44 seconds left in the period.

Michael Mann capped the scoring for Watertown with his goal 8:46 into the third period. It was Mann’s first pro goal, as well as the first for DiConstanzo and Jmaeff at this level.

“Absolutely, it’s nice that everyone can score and you don’t have to depend on like a couple guys,” MacDonald said. “And it’s the first game, so there’s going to be a lot more players that are going to be able to score and contribute.”

“It’s a good start, three guys just got here like a day ago, so they’re just learning our systems, so we’ll be better (tonight),” Clarke said.

White finished with 23 saves for Binghamton, which is an expansion team, also owned by Wolves owner Andreas Johansson.

Watertown and Binghamton will square off again at 7:30 tonight at the Fairgrounds Arena.

NOTES: Clarke, who guided the Wolves to their first Federal Hockey League championship in the 2014-15 season in his first campaign as head coach, made his return as he was hired by Watertown in 2019 before last season. ... McKechney and Johnny Bonta each recorded two assists on the night for the Wolves in their debuts with the team. ... DiConstanzo, a Long Island native, scored three goals in Watertown’s preseason win against Binghamton last week. ...

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