CHELSEA — Howell hockey coach Mike Mantua decided to change things yup this year when it came to his schedule.
“In the past, we’ve had more non conference games and got off to a slower start,” he said.
Not this year. Howell started its season off with three conference games, and looked to end the first week of the season 3-0 after Friday’s 5-0 blanking of Pinckney at the Arctic Coliseum.
The Highlanders will end the week with a game tonight at Waterford.
Howell, which began the week with an 8-2 win over Milford, was taking on a Pinckney team which was playing its first game, and the first period showed that.
The Highlanders swarmed goalie Nick Lefebvre, controlling the puck for long stretches and finally breaking through on a goal by Justin Zeiter with 6:35 left in the first.
Howell scored twice more in the next 2:24, from Colton O’Doherty and Zeiter again, to take control of the game.
“The energy came out in nerves more than it benefit us,” Pinckney coach Ted Kroll said. “We were out of position. We were chasing and we watched what was going on in the first. We’d like to have a couple of those back just for defensive zone coverage.”
“When we were playing the style of hockey we’re looking for htis year, they played well,” Mantua said. “You could tell a big difference whenb they veered off it and when they were staying with it. It’s something we can work on and the boys can all see.
“They can all identify when we’re not doing what we’re supposed to do, and that’s a good thing,” he continued. “They can start policing themselves on the bench and in the locker rrom, and it will work out when we’re doing what we’re supposed to do on a more consistent basis.”
The Pirates settled down after the first intermission, holding the Highlanders to goals by Alex Gowan early in the second and Jack Toth late in the third.
“We were just trying to go out there and play our systems, like we’ve been working on, and keep the pressure on,” Howell co-captain Steven Mulally said. “We knew if we kept the pressure on, we’d get chances and we could cap on those chances.”
And there were plenty of chances. Pinckney goalie Nick Lefebvre faced 55 shots, not counting those that hit sticks or legs and flew over the net.
Mantua praise Lefebvre (“He played phenomenal”), but was a little concerned with his team’s offense.
“We have to learn to play playoff hockey and get more goals out of those shots,” he said. “We ultimately want to be a playoff team. We have to make those shots count.”
There’s plenty of time to get that sorted out, and Kroll, whose team was outshot 55-17, was taking the long view.
“It was the first game of the year, and it’s a four-month season,” he said. “A lot of change can happen. People are learning. They might be unhappy with the result tonight, but we’ll see what it ends with.”