A split of last weekend’s two games showed the Talawanda hockey team they still have work to do to get to the level they want to be by early February but they have improved over their opening weekend showing.
That Thanksgiving weekend showing was colored by the fact that the Braves were playing some of the top teams in Ohio and losing by wide margins.
Improvement is showing but Coach Steve McGrinder said there is still work to do.
A two-week layoff leading into last weekend’s two games left them a little rusty but it did not hurt them too much, the coach said.
The Braves defeated another improving team, Elder, by a 4-3 score last Friday and fell 5-2 on Saturday to Springboro, ranked 10th in the state.
“We are doing so much more right. When we play within ourselves, we can beat anyone in this league,” McGrinder said. “We need to minimize mental errors. Against Elder, we looked so good. No one needs to be great. We need consistent competency.”
They were unable to take part in the Findlay tournament Christmas week, due to weather, but McGrinder said he is pleased with his team’s progress this season.
Talawanda ran its Southwest Ohio High School Hockey League record to 3-3-2 with last weekend’s games.
McGrinder said the Elder game got closer than it should have and the Saturday game against Springboro could have gone in their favor without a couple letdowns.
Springboro scored first on Saturday and led 1-0 after one period. The Braves tied it at 1-1 less than five minutes into the second period, but the Panthers went up again 2-1 with just 1:20 to go in that second period.
The third frame saw three goals scored in less than two minutes as Talawanda tied the game again, at 2-2, with 11:14 to go in the game but Springboro scored at the 10:33 mark to go back on top and added another score with 9:20 to go for a 4-2 lead. They added a meaningless goal with 31 second left when McGrinder pulled his goalie for an extra attacker and Springboro got a breakaway goal.
“We were 2-2 in the third period over the first place team in the league,” the coach said. “We held play. Of the 45 minutes in the game, they outplayed us, maybe, ten minutes.”
Andy Sens stopped 25 shots but it wasn't enough for the Braves. Scoring goals for Talawanda were Mason Miller and Brandon Tafelski, while Sam Poetter, Jacob McGrinder, and Kyle Tafelski added assists.
“Andy Sens played very well in goal,” McGrinder said.
The coach said his team lacks superstars and has worked hard to grasp the team concept of hockey.
“In the grand scheme of things, I think for team concept, we were the better team,” he said of the game with Springboro. “They had two players dominate, but we all played well together.
Talawanda held off a furious Elder comeback a night earlier after taking a 4-1 lead Friday night. Goalie Jack Spaulding repulsed a five-man rush when Elder pulled its goalie late in the contest.
Talawanda scored early on Taylor Hamilton's goal just one minute into the game on an assist from Zane Marsh. Curran Persinger buried the second goal on feeds from Mason Miller and Hamilton and the rout appeared to be on when the Braves took a 3-0 lead in the second period on Brandon Tafelski's goal, again assisted by Hamilton.
Elder capitalized on a power play opportunity to cut the lead to 3-1, but Kyle Tafelski scored quickly following that letdown, assisted by his brother. That ended the scoring for Talawanda, as Spaulding worked to preserve the win 4-3.
“Against Elder, we held our own but in the last three minutes tried to give it away. As coach, I need to find a way to get the guys to be disciplined on our end. My job is to teach them to do that,” McGrinder said. “All we have to do is play short, smart hockey. We do ten things right in a game and do two things wrong and lose.”
Talawanda plays two home games again this weekend, hosting Beavercreek Friday and Butler County on Saturday.