The Rockford varsity hockey team completed a two-game season sweep of the Muskegon Reeths Puffer Rockets on Wednesday, Feb. 18, winning by a score of 3-2. The Rams had easily won the teams’first meeting by a score of 6-2, but this game was much closer, requiring an overtime period to settle the matter.
In the first period, it was all Rockford, as the Rams took a 2-0 lead. Mason McGillicuddy scored the first goal with the assistance of some tick-tack-toe passes by Adam Hoard and Travis Whitfield. The Rams’ second goal came when Cody Cantu passed the puck up to Mike Bieke, who split two Rocket defenders and swooped in on the net to score.
In the second period, the Rockets derailed the Rams’ scoring machine by ratcheting up their physical play. The period witnessed some heavy hitting, including memorable collisions orchestrated by senior Ram defenders Tyler Carlson and Dan Cruickshank. But the physical play cost the Rams four penalties compared to the Rockets’ two and kept both teams off the scoreboard.
The third period saw a continuation of the heavy hitting, except that the Rockets scored twice, including a power play goal to leave the game tied at the end of regulation.
The overtime period was spectacular with end-to-end action and huge saves by the Rockets’ goaltender and the Rams’ net-minder Forrest Andrus. Then as the Ram faithful were contemplating adding one to the tie column, defenseman Andy Shira head-manned the puck to Jake Chaffee, who raced down the ice, shielding the puck from the pursuing Rocket defenders, and fired a wicked backhander into the net for the 3-2 victory. Andrus earned his 10th win of the season and raised the Rams’ overall record to 17-4-2-1 (W-L-T-OTL).
Prior to the game, the Rams recognized the following seniors and their parents: Forrest Andrus, Mike Bieke, Tyler Carlson, Dan Cruickshank, Travis Guest, Adam Hoard, Phil Piirala, Mason McGillicuddy, Shea Mills, Brandon Ryfiak, Andy Shira and Travis Whitfield. The bittersweet Senior Night festivities were emceed by radio personality Chuck LaTour and featured a moving rendition of the “Star Spangled Banner” by trumpet soloist and hockey dad, Jerry Piirala.
The Rams return to action against Muskegon Catholic Central at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 25 at the Southside Ice Center. Rockford’s final regular season game will be held at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 28 at Griff’s Ice house at Belknap Park.