Last March, Riverview Gabriel Richard’s season was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Richard was set to play in the D3 state semifinals, for the third year in a row, before concerns regarding the spread of the virus led to the cancellation of all remaining winter sports.
On Tuesday night, the Pioneers kicked off their quest to earn another trip to the state’s final four with an 8-0 win over host Gibraltar Carlson at Trenton’s Kennedy Recreation Center. It was the first game of the delayed 2020-21 season for both teams.
Winter contact sports (hockey, basketball, competitive cheer, wrestling) were not allowed to compete until Monday, Feb. 8, a date that was moved up from Feb. 21. In a normal year, high school hockey games would get underway around the third week of November with the other sports following soon after.
Contact sports started practicing back on Jan. 16. However, participants had to maintain six feet of distance during those sessions, which kept teams from any type of regular competition before starting games this week.
“It was very difficult because they are hockey players and hockey players are built to compete,” said veteran Richard coach Rick DeSana. “The time up until (now) wasn’t the easiest but they had to just trust in it. When the date got moved from the 21st and got moved up, that was really an awesome gift for all these guys.”
For the Pioneers on Tuesday, Jimmy Monks had two goals and three assists. Sebastian Potter and Robbie Chiles each scored twice, as well, while Brody Kirkpatrick contributed a goal and an assist and Matthew Vasquez lit the lamp once. In addition, one assist each came from Nathan Schwein, Brenden Paden and Aiden Wishart.
Monks, Potter and Chiles, all sophomores, are among the many young Pioneers who saw significant time last winter. The trio accounted for 56 points in the 2019-20 campaign.
“(We’re) young but a lot of guys got a lot of good experience last year,” DeSana said. “Last year, on every other shift we were putting four freshmen and a sophomore on the ice.”
Starting in goal for Carlson on Tuesday was Isaac Kolasa, who was under pressure much of the night but did make some nice saves along the way despite the lopsided final score.
The Pioneers grabbed a 4-0 lead in the first period and then scored twice in the second and added two more goals in the third to cap off the eighth-goal mercy.
Potter opened the scoring with a goal about nine minutes into the contest. Soon after, Monks and Chiles recorded back-to-back shorthanded goals. Chiles put another puck in the net just 22 seconds later, this time at even strength, and gave Richard a commanding four-goal advantage.
Monks picked up his second goal of the night 55 seconds into the second period and Vazquez put the Riverview group up 6-0 with about three minutes left before the second intermission.
Carlson coach Trent Begeman was happy to see his squad come out stronger after the first intermission.
“They were able to put that first period behind them,” he said. “We had a much better second period than the first…They shied away a little bit until that second period, so that first period was really rough.”
In the third, Kirkpatrick lit the lamp for the Pioneers approximately two minutes in and then Potter got his second of the night with exactly 8:30 left on the clock and brought the game to an end.
Overall, the Marauders have a good chance to be much more competitive in the coming weeks.
“This is honestly one of the best groups I’ve seen at Carlson,” Begeman said. “I think we’re faster than we’ve been in a while. We’ve got a lot of depth so we can roll three lines pretty well. I think we’re going to compete with teams we should compete with and hopefully jump up and get a couple that maybe people write us off on.”
Both Richard and the Marauders were set to play games on Friday and Saturday.
Next up for the Pioneers was a trip to Salem on Friday at 3:30 p.m. The team was also set to visit Country Day the next day for a 4 p.m. matchup.
Carlson was scheduled to be home both days, facing Trenton at 5 p.m. Friday and Riverview on Saturday at 7:15 p.m.