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January 31, 2006 > Together is better in 7-1 Blackhawks victory

Together is better in 7-1 Blackhawks victory

Midget-A1 18U

Fourteen different Santa Clara skaters combined to register 16 points, in a complete-game 7-1 humbling of the California Cougars on Sunday, Jan. 22. With the win, the Blackhawks improve to 8-0-1 in regular season play, and they avenge their only blemish, a 2-2 tie against these same Cougars on the Cougars' home ice. This Blackhawks club has great talent and depth, and when they play together, they are a championship-contending club, as they demonstrated today. Patrick Castagna was the game's only two-goal scorer. Five other Hawks got into the lamp-lighting act - Nick Costa, Dustin Holt, Brandon Shore, Kyle Yedlicka, and Jason Pacheco. All ten Blackhawks' assists came from different players - Yedlicka, Pacheco, Phillip Wong, Anthony Dragotto, Vitto Gagliardi, Mitch Venosta, Jeremy Mamon, Derek Fredericks, Robert Kotval, and Kevin Brown. And goaltender Devon Luna was no slouch in this game either. He turned in another lights-out performance, setting aside 26 shots and losing his shutout bid with just 3:19 left to play.

The Hawks' all-round performance was epitomized by bookend goals that were scored as direct results of great forechecking and backchecking by Phillip Wong and Jeremy Mamon. The Blackhawks got on the board first, at 12:47, after Wong delivered a punishing forecheck on a dump-in, and then grabbed possession and fed the biscuit out front to Nick Costa, who buried the bone, short side. Anthony Dragotto got the secondary assist on the play, which was made possible by Wong's hit. The Blackhawks final goal of the contest did not earn Jeremy Mamon an assist, but his well-executed check behind the Blackhawks' net allowed Kevin Brown to gain control and immediately sweep the puck around the side boards to Jason Pacheco. Pacheco tipped the puck away from a Cougars skater as it slid into the neutral zone, and then stepped around the defender to regain control and escape for a breakaway, which he converted with a nifty move around the goaltender. Both Pacheco and Costa's goals were testaments to how team play and hard work away from the puck leads to W's.

Patrick Castagna scored the Hawks' second goal of the game after his line outworked the Cougars' line on a lengthy shift inside the Cougars' zone. Vitto Gagliardi and Kyle Yedlicka each earned assists for cycling the puck before Yedlicka and Castagna executed a quick give-and-go in the left slot area. Castagna stuffed the return pass home to make it 2-0 at 5:07. Another smart play by the Blackhawks earned them their third and final goal of the period. This time it was Dustin Holt making not one, but two smart decisions that ultimately earned him a goal. First, Holt denied a clearing attempt that the Cougars sent around the boards. Sensing that he could get there in time, Holt pinched in along the boards and got his stick on the puck, sending it back behind the net. As Holt circled back to retake his defensive position, he saw that Jeremy Mamon had his back, so Holt circled again and broke for the net. Jason Pacheco spotted him and sent a centering feed toward the crease that Holt got to, popping the bun in the oven. Mitch Venosta earned the secondary assist on the play.

The Hawks put together another solid 15 minutes of hockey in the second period, but they didn't score until the final minute - and this time, it was a scant two seconds of teamwork that made it happen. On a face-off in the Cougars' zone with just 0:34 remaining in the period, Jeremy Mamon played the drop forward to Brandon Shore. Shore stepped around his defender and took the clean face-off win and immediately roofed it for one of the quickest goals you will ever see off a face-off. In the third period, Santa Clara capped their scoring with the aforementioned goal by Jason Pacheco, which was preceded by goals from Patrick Castagna and Kyle Yedlicka. Castagna's goal came after defenseman Robert Kotval fed cross ice to Derek Fredericks, and Fredericks ripped a hard pass ahead and off the side boards to Castagna, who then moved deep into the Cougars' zone before rifling a shot over the netminder's outstretched glove. Yedlicka's goal was of the unassisted variety and came after he intercepted a pass intended for a defensemen positioned along the side boards at the blueline. Yedlicka fed the puck around the D-man to himself, and then sidestepped another defender on his way to schooling the goaltender for the Blackhawks sixth goal of the contest.

Goaltender Devon Luna faced his toughest shots after the Blackhawks had built a comfortable lead. But when the shots came, he was ready. Luna made a sweet glovehand snag at 10:17 of the opening period, and another quick snatch with the chopper at 13:08 of the second period. His toughest saves were reserved for the third period when he came up big on a two-on-one at 7:22, following that up with an outstanding side-to-side save that he smothered down low on the same shift. Luna best saves of the game came back-to-back, first with the glove at 4:10, and then with a great stretch of the toe, at 4:05. Luna lost his shutout bid when he stumbled just a bit on a breakaway. Even then, it took a nice shot to the top of the net to beat him for the Cougars' only goal.

The Blackhawks play three of their next four games against the second place Tri-Valley Blue Devils. The Devils rallied to beat the Blackhawks, 4-3, in their only prior meeting, a preseason affair way back on October 16. Tri-Valley is playing at the Silver Sticks Tournament in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada this weekend, so they are facing some very stiff competition that will certainly help get them prepared for the Blackhawks.

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