WATERTOWN – A night after clinching first place in the league, Watertown Wolves suffered a rare home defeat.
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 on Saturday in a Federal Prospects Hockey League game in front of a rate attendance of 879 at Watertown Municipal Arena.
League-leading Watertown (40-11-3) suffered just its third home loss in 27 games this season at the Fairgrounds.
“It’s frustrating,” Wolves assistant captain Lane King said. “As we just talked about after the game, we have to learn how to close games. We’re first and we clinched it last night, but blowing a 5-2 lead in third with five games to go is tough.
The latest Delaware (7-39-2) won its first game against Wolves this season after losing the previous five meetings, including an 8-1 loss on the road on Friday.
Alexander Jmaeff scored four goals on the night, including one on the power play four minutes and 25 seconds into the third period, to give Watertown a 5-2 lead.
But the Thunder responded by scoring twice in the space of 14 seconds to draw less than a goal on a count each from former Wolves player Ryan Marker and Kevin Auger to draw 5-4 with 11:41 left in regulation time.
Then, with their goalie pulled for an extra forward, Delaware’s Ilya Bobko followed with the tying goal with 1:02 left in regulation time.
“I think we got up 5-2 and kind of mailed it,” King said. “Teams like that work hard if you let them hang around, and a few rebounds go their way, and they score a last-minute goal and then we lose it in a shootout. So hopefully that’s a lesson and hopefully we can take that to heart.
After a scoreless overtime in which Thunder goalkeeper Greg Harney made three saves, Andrusenko converted in the third round of the shootout by beating Wolves goalkeeper Luke Cohen with a wrist.
“We just have to finish games better and the guys started trying to do too much, and to be honest we didn’t face anyone tonight,” Watertown coach Brent Clarke said. “We were just there trying to put on a show and trying to win a hockey game, but the game meant nothing.”
Jmaeff and Rocco DiConstanzo both failed in each of their two five-round shootout attempts and teammate Colin Chmelka was also disallowed.
A night after league-leading Watertown clinched the playoff seed, it was unable to complete a two-game sweep.
“I ripped them a new one, ’cause it’s still bull (beep),” Clarke said of the result. We’re a better hockey team even without guys in the lineup. We were leading 5-2 and how do you blow that lead? Why, because we were selfish and the guys wanted to do their own thing and it’s not going to fly come playoff time.
Watertown team captain Justin MacDonald did not play as he was in good health. MacDonald was an assistant coach behind the bench one night after scoring his 60th goal of the season, which is a franchise record.
“So we can use it negatively or use it as a wake-up call and I think we’ll do the latter,” King said of the loss.
Wolves led 1-0 as Jmaeff scored 14 seconds into their first power play of the match on a burst from the right run, with Ryan Devine assisting 5:50 into the first period. The Thunder tied 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 help from Marker.
After Jmaeff scored 8:26 into the period, with help from Cole McKechney, Chmelka provided Wolves with a 3-2 advantage as he clocked 25 seconds into a Watertown power play with 6: 05 to play in the period, which was also assisted by McKechney. . Jmaeff then scored 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 two overtime saves, for Wolves.
Wolves wore special cancer awareness shirts, which were white with pink trim, and numbers and were auctioned off after the game.
After playing Danbury at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Wolves will play Delaware next Friday and Saturday.
“Obviously we accomplished what we wanted to accomplish, our first goal was to get the home advantage and we did that,” said King, who had four assists. “I think it’s a bit of a speed bump, obviously, and overall it’s been a really good year, we need to be more consistent in the last four or five games before the playoffs.”