Stars crush Freedom in Danbury debut
By Chris Leone
November 13, 2006
DANBURY -- With the remnants of the Danbury Trashers down to a few advertisements in the Danbury Ice Arena, the New England Stars made their home debut Sunday night against the Findlay Freedom.
"There was a void when Danbury learned that it was not going to have a UHL team," said New England coach Stephen Seegar. "We think that we can fill that void."
The Stars, part of the four-team North Eastern Hockey League, opened without a big ceremony, played before a half full rink, but still took home a 14-1 victory over their visitors from Ohio.
Regardless of the outcome it was clear from the start that this event was a celebration for hockey in the greater Danbury area.
"It's a nice experience here and this is a great rink and a great facility," said John Vitti, a 10-year-old youth hockey player from Ridgefield. "I think Danbury will get a lot of people to root for this team."
Sam Sarath, a teammate of Vitti's on the Ridgefield Lions was also happy to see his coach, Stars forward T.J. Cline, practice what he preaches on and off the ice.
"I've never seen him (Cline) in full equipment and playing," said Sarath. "Yeah, it's exciting to have hockey here. It's kind of close and we get to see games."
On a rainy day with the NFL in mid-season and NASCAR winding down to its final two weeks, sports fans had plenty of options and reasons to stay home. However, for the estimated 1,300 fans that came out, they didn't have to wait too long to cheer.
"We set the tone early," said Seegar. "We have a lot of talent on this team."
When Scott Horvath let a wrist shot fly on net early in the first period, it appeared at first glance to be harmless. The captain's shot, however, just kept rising, eventually clearing the glove side of Freedom goalie Dennis Canfield. When the horn sounded and lamp lit at the 5:27 mark of the first period, the Stars had their first home goal and a 1-0 lead.
"Eric Lind threw me a nice pass across the ice," said Horvath. "I just stepped over the blue line and let it go. It felt good to get the fans into the game."
New England fed off that early goal and the momentum provided by the home crowd. With a 23-5 advantage in first-period shots, the Starts controlled the play -- and most importantly for the fans, the hits.
With Section 102 shouting at Freedom players and directly at Canfield, the Stars scored again. Dave LoPresti found the back of the net on a one-timer from Chris Seifert at 15:47 of the first period.
When Canfield was briefly injured on a slashing penalty, the section gave the visiting goalie a standing 10-count before a mock sympathy call upon his standing up.
"This is good for the core group of fans," said Rick Ziegler of West Haven and a proud resident of Section 102. "To be honest, we were all skeptical, but so far, so good."
"We're just rolling it over like a pension plan," said Ziegler, who, like many in the section, still proudly wear their Trashers jerseys. "Noise, that's what were known for in this section."
In the second period, Section 102 and the rest of the arena had plenty to celebrate.
Horvath added his second goal of the game just over a minute into the period, and Clark Jones followed with a natural hat trick. The forward scored twice shorthanded in a 22 second span, then added a power play goal late in the period. The arena had barely finished celebrating when 21 seconds later Horvath collected his third goal for his own hat trick. Goals from Rich Vega and Phil Esposito rounded out the seven-goal period that put the game away.
"After the first period it was only 2-1, we had our chances but really had to put the puck in the net," said Horvath. "We didn't want to keep it close."
In the second a couple of fights also brought out some noise. A minor scrap between Sean Keene and Tony Westfail drew mild applause. However, it was the pugilistic work of Eric Lind that brought out a game misconduct for fighting, the crowd to its feet and along with the ultimate result probably more fans to future games.
With a combined 15 goals, 84 shots, three fights and over 50 minutes in penalties it was an opening with something for everyone to remember.
Findlay Freedom (2-1) 1 0 0 -- 1
New England Stars (2-0) 2 7 5 -- 14
1. N, Scott Horvath (Eric Lind), 5:27; 2. N, Dave LoPresti (Chris Seifert), 15:47; 3. F, Kevin Assenmacher (Unassisted), 1:41.
4. N, Scott Horvath 2 (Ryan Hughes), 1:21; 5. N, Clark Jones (Scott Horvath), (SH) 3:49; 6. N, Clark Jones 2 (Unassisted), (SH) 4:13; 7. N, Rich Vega (Unassisted), 6:16; 8. N, Clark Jones 3 (T.J. Cline and Rich Vega), 15:57; 9. N, Scott Horvath 3 (Sean Keane), 16:19; 10. N, Phil Esposito (Tom Westfall and Chris Seifert), 18:00.
11. N, T.J. Cline (Sean Keane) PP, 1:19; 12. N, Tom Westfall (Unassisted), 10:53; 13. N, T.J. Cline 2 (Eric Lind), (SH) 13:55; 14. N, T.J. Cline (Eric Lind) (PP) 19:01; 15. N, Tom Westfall 2 (Eric Lind), 19:20.
SHOTS ON GOAL: New England 64, Findlay 20. SAVES: Kelly Holowaty (NE) 19; Dennis Canfield (F) 45 and Woody Morris (F) 5.