The East Alton-Wood River-Roxana hockey team kicked off its 2014-2015 season on Thursday in the Mississippi Valley Club Hockey Association against the neighboring Alton Redbirds, but fell 7-0 in regulation play at the East Alton ice arena.
East Alton-Wood River and Roxana combined forces several years ago to create a stronger and more competitive team, which earned them the MVCHA conference championship last year. Despite the loss to the Redbirds, new EA-WR head coach John Helmkamp has positive expectations for his team.
“The first half of the game we played pretty strong and were making a game out of it,” Helmkamp said. “Of course, we hate to drop a game 7-0, but I’m looking not just at the battle, but at the war. We accomplished a lot in the first game against an upper-tier team. We have definitely made huge strides.”
Alton senior Alex Rubin wears the “A” on his sweater and delivered four goals and an assist for the Redbirds in their first home game of the season.
“We have a really good senior class this year,” Alton Redbirds head coach Abram Henson said. “Rubin is a strong offensive player for us. He’s an All-Star and plays select hockey. All of my seniors are dependable players.”
Both EA-WR and Alton played the opening game missing key players on the ice. For EA-WR, Seth Chester and Alex Revelle took a spectator’s view with classmates for Thursday’s game to keep themselves healthy for the Roxana Shells’ playoff football game on Saturday. Senior Brandon Bailey has to start his senior year on the disabled list because of a concussion. The Redbirds also had to sit two defensemen, filling the position with forwards against EA-WR.
“I know both of our teams were missing key players tonight,” Henson said. “I know that we will be very strong when we have all our players on the ice. I know that the Oilers will be competitive once all their pieces are put together.”
Helmkamp said missing a few key players is giving EA-WR a challenge to start off the season.
“We have the talent on our team; we just need to use it the best they can,” Helmkamp said. “I think our offense will pick up once we get everyone on the ice. We did fairly well on penalties too; it’s good to play aggressive but you don’t do your team any service if you spend the game in the penalty box.”
Alton was the first to find the back of the net off a solo shot from Rubin in the first period at 4:52. EA-WR would keep the Redbirds to a one-goal lead until the Redbirds’ offense took off in the last two minutes of the second period. Rubin would score his second and third goal of the game at 2:15, assisted by senior forward Brendan Lowe; and again at 2:05, assisted by senior Jake Cunningham. Lowe would score with an assist from Rubin and Cunningham with just 35 seconds remaining in the second period. Junior Austin Erthal wouldn’t be left out when he found the net off an assist from Jake Bohn and Kain Henson to bring the score to 5-0 at the end of the second. Rubin wasn’t done for the day when he added his fourth goal of the game, unassisted, at 11:46 in the third period, increasing the Redbirds’ lead to 6-0. Alton would add a final goal by Lowe, assisted by Cunningham, before the buzzer sounded with 31 seconds left in regulation play, earning the Redbirds their first win of the season with a score of 7-0.
Penalties for EA-WR were all minors, with EA-WR junior Blake Weishaupt earning a roughing penalty at 6:00 and junior Chris Hamby getting two minutes for cross-checking at 1:50 in the first period. Lowe would earn Alton’s only penalty of the game for an interference call at 9:19 in the second period. Weishaupt would earn his second penalty of the game for tripping in the third period at 9:05.
Senior Mitch Klug would earn the shutout for the Redbirds with 17 saves. EA-WR junior Blake Stone, fresh off a knee injury, allowed seven goals on 33 shots.
EA-WR faces Edwardsville at the East Alton ice arena at 8:45 p.m. Thursday, Nov 13. Alton travels to Granite City on Tuesday, Nov. 11, and will play at 8:15 p.m.