Getting your first goal is always something every junior hockey remembers, even if it happens when your team is mired in a huge slump.
Austin Hentz will always remember Halloween night 2014.
After Zach Taylor gave the Paris Mounties an early lead, the rookie from Tillsonburg got a hold of the puck and made no mistake two minutes later, tying things up.
“It’s been a long time waiting,” Hentz said with a smile after he and the Travellers dropped a 4-1 decision at home. “It felt really good to score that one. Hopefully now that I’ve got one in, more will come.”
It’s part of a learning curve Hentz said, he and the other newcomers to junior hockey are going through.
“It’s a little bit faster,” Hentz said of junior compared to minor hockey. “You just have to be smarter with the puck. Every play in this league counts. Every time you turn the puck over, it’s a goal, and every time you get the puck near the net, you make sure you put it in.”
Unfortunately on Friday, that was the only goal the Travellers got, with Brodie Smith scoring twice in the first period, and Brady Wheelans adding one more in the third for the Mounties.
“We’re really seeing a lot of progress,” Hentz said. “Last time we played these guys, the score was lop-sided. Tonight, I think we really skated with them.
“We are happy with the fact we’re getting better,” he said. “I know it’s a loss, But we’ve picked it up on the defensive side, and we’re able to get the puck out of the zone to create chances.”
Thanks to Friday’s defeat, and a 5-3 loss to the Wellesley Applejacks Saturday, the Travellers are now 0-14. Despite that, Hentz and his teammates don’t have their heads sunk down. And it’s because of the veteran leadership.
“The older guys are really good,” Hentz said. “They’ve been great. Even though we’re losing, the heads are up in the dressing room, because the older guys make sure we’re all up.”
Which is something they hope translates into wins, especially against the Applejacks in their next two games this weekend.
“Playing 40 minutes like this, we can get that first win,” Hentz said. “The next couple games are huge. We can get back into the playoff spot if we can beat them.
“We have to skate hard, get shots on net, just like tonight,” he said. “We had a lot more shots tonight. Our confidence isn’t down. We know we’re getting better, and we can feel it.”
In Saturday’s game, Nevin Guenther, Kyle Vigar and Quinn Gaetz scored for the Travellers.
Friday the Applejacks are in Delhi, while the Travellers make a return trip Saturday. Both games are at 7:30 p.m.