The Staples-Weston-Shelton co-op boys ice hockey team is closing in on a spot in the Division III state tournament after missing out last season.
A statement win over one of the perennial contenders in the FCIAC is the latest piece of evidence that this is a completely different season for the Wreckers.
The victory wasn't certain until the final horn sounded as Greenwich's final shot went high of the net. The errant shot sent Staples to a 4-3 win over the Cardinals on Wednesday night at the Milford Ice Pavilion. The win extended the Wreckers (5-3) winning streak to four games.
"I'm very proud of the effort we put in," Staples coach Todd Sharinn said. "The guys fought hard and I think that's the reason they came out determined and put up a great effort. The kids said this was their coming out and it was."
Greenwich (1-6) gained the zone in the final minute with an empty net and an extra attacker, searching for the game-tying goal. A pair of saves by Staples goalie Will Englehart and three shots that went high or wide of the cage denied the Cardinals an equalizer.
"You want to get the puck to the net and you want to get guys to the net," Greenwich coach Bob Russel said. "We created an opportunity, a couple more seconds and we might have something. We would have liked to get it to overtime but it just didn't happen."
Jack Mendillo scored twice for Staples, increasing his season total to 13. Mendillo scored on a quick wrist shot that beat Greenwich goalie Bryan Archino towards the end of the second period to give Staples a 4-1 lead.
"As a goaltender (Mendillo) puts a lot of confidence in you and the rest of the team," Englehart said. "Knowing you have a guy out there that you trust with the puck and makes plays; when you get in close games he's the one that pulls through."
The Wreckers entered the third period leading 4-1, but goals by Tommy Rogan and Matthew Lodato pulled the Cardinals to within a goal with 10 minutes left. Staples regrouped and the teams traded chances until the final seconds.
"I think we got a little too confident and relaxed a bit," Englehart said. "It gave us a bit of a shock but we were able to hold them down and that's what's important. A win is a win."
Mendillo and Eric Zurmuehle scored first period goals for Staples, which jumped out to a 2-0 lead. Although Luke Finnernan cut the deficit in half midway through the second, Derek Nussbaum and Mendillo scored 1:24 apart late in the period to extend the lead to three.
"Just a little too far behind," Russel said. "We're a young team that doesn't have a lot of experienced guys. We lost a lot of battles strength wise; (Staples) was a little bit bigger and stronger."
The Cardinals went 0-for-4 on the power play while Staples went 1-for-3. Archino made 17 saves for Greenwich while Englehart made 22 saves.
Staples will battle fellow FCIAC member Ridgefield Saturday in Milford. Face off is set for 8 p.m.