You can't blame Mentor for being a little skittish during the third period of Friday's nonleague encounter with visiting Kenston.
The Cardinals had lost eight of nine coming in and saw a great first-period effort that produced a four-goal lead suddenly cut in half by the game Bombers.
Those nerves, however, were then calmed in a hurry.
Jimmy Wallette and Matt Sutton scored 28 seconds apart to put Mentor back in control in a 6-2 win over Kenston in a battle of the Nos. 4 and 5 teams in The News-Herald Top of the Crop.
The Cardinals (6-10) know all too well about the dangers of snowballing, after finishing last season on a 19-game winless skid. They're starting the calendar year on a much more positive note.
"Going into the third, we battled hard," Mentor coach Paul McKito said. "We got our focus back, and we were starting to push them back and getting pucks deep and going to our offense.
"We found a way to throw a couple in the net to secure the victory, but I think if you ask any one of our guys, they felt that game was a little too close for comfort."
The Cardinals appeared to be comfortably in control after a dominant opening period. Nick Kirschner got things off to a flying start, pouncing on a deflection right back to him after his dump into the zone and putting away an easy tap at the right bar for a 1-0 lead 38 seconds in.
Ryan Posipanka and Victor Senn lit the lamp a little less than two minutes apart later in the period with respective wristers to claim a 3-0 lead, and Brandon Tackett put the finishing touches on a strong period with a wrister in traffic with 1:36 left before intermission.
"We started off strong, and then I feel like we kind of got comfortable with the lead," Tackett said. "We needed to get that intensity back, and it started to come back in the third. As long as we were working, we were winning the game. We were playing pretty well."
The Bombers (7-7) put on a commendable showing despite having a short bench and one of Greater Cleveland's premier offensive talents outside of the Red Division in Nick Levine in street clothes as a result of a concussion sustained Thursday in a White East loss to Kent Roosevelt.
Ben Kinney got Kenston on the board at the 1:35 mark of the third, slotting a slapshot in traffic from the top of the left circle. Zack Kinney struck 78 seconds later, shelving a wrister to make it a 4-2 game. The Bombers got no closer, though, as Wallette did well a top-shelf wrister with 5:23 left and Sutton added a tally of his own seconds later.
"They answered the bell in the second and third period," Kenston coach Tom Beard said. "They just skated hard and worked hard and generated some offense for us.
"We're very happy. This is our fourth Red Division team we've played, and we haven't won any yet but we're getting good experience by playing Red Division teams."
Tackett is hopeful the good experience of being on the winning end can be something Mentor can sustain.
"This really boosts the morale," Tackett said. "We were going into a slump there, and it's good to come back.
"It's very important to keep the intensity up and keep a winning streak up, because we have teenage kids and when you start losing, the emotions are high. You feel like you're completely failing. We've got to keep this going."
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