Especially this early in the season, when victories mean much more than just another notch in the win column.
They also mean confidence, which the Rough Riders now have a little more of following their harrowing 2-1 overtime victory over Parma Heights Valley Forge at the Kent State Ice Arena Thursday night.
Roosevelt junior forward Richie Wiland got the game-winner, taking a feed from freshman defenseman A.J. Catalano near center ice, skating past a Patriot defender and beating Valley Forge goaltender Brian Batzel with a backhand shot from close range just a couple minutes into overtime.
"I'll take it," said Hovey, whose team improved to 2-1-1 on the season while the Patriots fell to 0-1. "We're young and inexperienced, and we're going to have some ups and downs. We're going to play up some nights and down on other nights. What we have to shoot for is to reach a level where we improve each time out and play consistently.
"I don't think we played all that badly tonight, but we can play better. It's just good to come away with a win."
Wiland was virtually uncontested on his goal, bearing down on Batzel from the left. He veered right as he neared Batzel and flipped a quick backhand into the net for the win.
Hovey had a hunch good things were about to happen when he saw Wiland alone with the puck.
"I felt real good when I saw him going down the ice," he said. "At that point, it was a very good goalie against a very good forward. Any time Richie has his stick on the puck in that situation, I'll take my chances."
For most of the game, though, it seemed highly unlikely that the Rough Riders would need an extra session to win it. They dominated the Patriots for the most part, spending much of the game in the Valley Forge zone and exerting tremendous pressure on Batzel, who kept his team in contention with a slew of split-second saves.
Batzel ended up saving 34 of the 36 shots he faced, while Roosevelt sophomore goalie Brian Gallagher stopped 17-of-18 attempts.
"I thought our forwards played a very good game," said Hovey. "I thought we could have had several more goals. Their goalie is one of the better ones we'll see all year. And Gallagher made some point-blank saves tonight, and he's a young, inexperienced goalie."
Batzel was at his best in the third period. With the Rough Riders continually breaking down the Valley Forge defense, Batzel was virtually on his own in holding Roosevelt at bay _ and he succeeded for the entire 15 minutes.
In fact, the Rough Riders did score early in the third, but the goal was disallowed because the referee had lost sight of the puck and blown his whistle, stopping play.
Roosevelt had several other chances at goals, though, but each time the Rough Riders were either denied by Batzel or simply missed their target.
"I think we're putting on good pressure," said Hovey, "but we just don't finish well sometimes. We get too cute in front of the net. Maybe we make an extra pass when we shouldn't, or we try to steer the puck in instead of shooting it hard. Any time you take 36 shots, you should score more than two goals."
Roosevelt wasted no time in breaking on top, taking a 1-0 lead just 2:16 into the game. Senior forward Brad Kovolyan flipped the puck past Batzel from close range after taking a pass from junior forward Bobby Petry, and it looked as if scoring goals would be the least of the Rough Riders' problems on this night.
Valley Forge then drew even at 1-1 when Nick Kupreshanin scored a short-range goal 2:57 into the second period. But with the Rough Riders peppering Batzel with a variety of shots from all angles, it seemed like the deadlock wouldn't last long.
However, the teams stayed that way for the rest of the second period and through the entire third, before Wiland ended it on his breakaway goal in overtime.
And Hovey will take it.
Kent Roosevelt 2, Valley Forge 1
(at Kent State)
First Period _ 1. (KR) Brad Kovolyan (Bobby Petry), 12:44.
Second Period _ 1. (VF) Nick Kupreshanin (Greg Doerk, Mark Worzencroft), 12:03.
Overtime _ 1. (KR) Richie Wiland (Brian Gallagher, A.J. Catalano).
Shots On Goal _ Kent Roosevelt, 36-18.
Goalies/Saves _ (VF) Brian Batzel/34; (KR) Brian Gallagher 17.