WESTMINSTER — The inaugural campaign for Centaurus hockey had been far from smooth leading up to the winter season.
That’s why the Warriors’ sizzling start has been so surprising.
Even in old JV jerseys because they ran out of time to purchase new ones due to pandemic pressures, the Warriors went to 2-0 on the season after Thomas Blash scored the game-winning goal with 2.4 seconds remaining to beat Standley Lake 2-1 Friday evening at the Westminster Promenade.
The start has even been a bit of a head-turner for Centaurus coach Stephen Cunningham. Asked about it, he thought part of the hot start could be the good amount of practice his team has had since the beginning of the season three weeks ago.
He also described a team culture bred in competition.
“We do a lot of competing in practice — like you’re on this team, you’re on this team. Now we go for a trophy and we’ll go grab something to go for,” Cunningham said. “And that brings out the best in them. You see they want to win.”
And that’s true even when the odds are steepest.
With overtime looming Friday, the game was stopped for several minutes as the officials sorted out a boarding penalty that followed in three unsportsmanlike calls. When back, there were just 20 seconds left on the clock — more than enough time for Blash.
The speedy forward tracked down the puck off the side board and drove to the net to beat Connor Haake in the final moments.
“I grabbed it and I was going to pass it,” Blash said. “But the D fell so I kept it. I made a move and scored.”
Gordy Nilsen scored earlier for Centaurus and Zack Hall stopped 18 shots in the win. Last week, the Warriors beat Standley Lake 4-2 in their home opener.
“We got to get better,” Blash said. “We should have won this game by at least five goals.”
Certainly, it could have been more lopsided. The Warriors had more than double the shots of the Gators, 40-19, outpacing them 19-6 in the second period alone. They also had seven power plays to the Gators’ three and didn’t score on any of them.
Only Nilsen found a way past Haake through most of three periods. He took a feed from JD McDougal and beat the netminder with 7:52 gone in the second. Standley Lake then came back to even things on Kaleb Baker’s goal with 7:55 left in the third.
It looked like overtime. Then flash, it was Blash.
Centaurus will continue league play against Ralston Valley Saturday before facing Columbine outside of conference Wednesday. In an attempt to limit advanced exposure, and contact trace if needed, teams will play all but one of its regular-season games inside conference.