EAST ALTON — Bethalto juniors Joe Watson and Konnar Loewen were too much to handle for the East Alton-Wood River Oilers on Monday.
Watson and Loewen combined for five goals and four assists to help the Eagles pull off a 5-4 win over the Oilers at East Alton Ice Arena. Watson finished with four goals and one assist and Loewen had one goal and three assists.
The juniors helped the Eagles improve to 9-9. Bethalto also defeated EA-WR for the third time this season.
The Eagles also are 2-0 in the Class 1A pool play. They started pool play last week with an 8-4 win over Highland at East Alton Ice Arena.
“We were kind of short benched tonight,” Bethalto assistant coach John Criswell said. “We had some players who were missing, but I think we played with a lot of energy and we played a complete game. I think everybody played as a team. But East Alton-Wood River is a good team, especially with Cole Ford. It’s really hard to contain him. I thought we did a good job on that.”
Bethalto will play Alton at 8:45 p.m. Tuesday at East Alton Ice Arena. The Redbirds, who are also 9-9, defeated the Eagles twice this season, winning 6-2 on Nov. 16 and 5-3 on Dec. 8.
“I think we’re going to have to pick up our game a lot,” Bethalto senior Justin Wendle said. “It was a good game against Wood River. We have Alton tomorrow, so we have to step up our game tenfold against them. They’re a great physical team and they like to grind out other teams. We just have to keep up our physical presence and stay conditioned for the rest of our games.”
Bethalto also has pool play games against Granite City (Jan. 25) and Collinsville (Jan. 28).
Criswell said he’s pleased with the way his team has been playing this winter.
“We had a couple of hiccups in everything, but I think overall, we’re playing pretty good and pretty strong as a team,” he said. “We’ve got really good goaltending and we’ve got a lot of good players and a lot of players who play with heart.”
Watson now has 15 goals after Monday’s performance. It’s the fourth time this season he scored two or more goals.
“Joe Watson is a good player,” Criswell said. “He’s always playing with heart. I coached him last year on Jerseyville. He’s always a team player.”
Loewen finished with three assists for the second straight game. He also had three assists against Highland last week. He now has 12 assists this season.
EA-WR dropped to 5-14 and 1-2 in Class 1A pool play with Monday’s loss. The Oilers beat Alton 8-4 on Thursday after starting their pool play with 7-3 loss to Collinsville two days before.
“We played a good game,” EA-WR coach John Helmkamp said. “I think the key thing for us is this is playoff-type hockey and we’re three weeks from the playoffs. Even though we came out in the short end, this is a good game for us to gear up for the playoffs. We would have liked to have won it, it’s not going to change our position for the playoffs.”
EA-WR plays Highland at 7:15 p.m. Thursday at East Alton Ice Arena. The Oilers beat the Bulldogs 8-6 in the last meeting on Dec. 22.
EA-WR freshman Kaleb Harrop scored two goals on Monday, giving him 16 for the season. Cole Ford and Jacob Vassos also scored goals for the Oilers.
With the game tied at 2-2, Watson scored a pair of goals in the third period. He scored an unassisted goal with eight minutes left in the game to give Bethalto a 4-3 lead. With 6:20 left, Watson received a pass from Loewen and scored his fourth goal to increase the Eagles’ lead to 5-3.
“He had a really good game,” Helmkamp said of Watson. “Anytime you score four goals, you’re obviously doing something right.”
Watson gave the Eagles a 1-0 lead after scoring a goal with just three minutes into the game. He scored a power play goal with 1:02 left in the second to break a 2-2 tie.
Loewen recorded the assist on both goals. He scored a goal with 1:37 left in the first period to give Bethalto a 2-0 lead.
Wendle said he’s happy his team beat the Oilers again. Bethalto defeated EA-WR 3-2 on Dec. 29 and 6-0 on Nov. 3.
“It’s such a great feeling,” the Bethalto senior said. “We’ve always been rivals with Wood River. There were always physical games between us every year that I played.”