Friday night, Dec. 3, the Rockford varsity ice hockey team took on the Falcons from West Catholic. In a penalty-laden game with a game total of 22 trips to the “sin bin,” each team found it difficult to get into a rhythm. Just 20 seconds into the game, Nathan Hill was checked from behind, sustaining a shoulder injury that knocked him out of the game for the rest of the night. With the Rams already being a team with a short bench, injuries to key players like Hill were not going to make it easy.
The Rams were first to get on the board in what turned out to be a high-scoring affair. Ben Glass got his first goal of the night with the assist going to Keegan Knight. Just a few minutes later, Thomas Soupal lit the lamp with helpers from Zack Vandawater and Eric Datema to put the Rams up 2-0. The final tally of the period came from West Catholic, making the score 2-1 going into intermission; the shots on goal were West Catholic 10, Rockford 8.
Both teams came out in the second period with scoring on their mind. West Catholic tied it up at 2, followed up shortly by another goal to take a 3-2 lead. The last four minutes of the second period were filled with plenty of scoring action. Soupal got his second and third goals of the night to complete his hat trick with assists coming from fellow senior Mike VanderVelde on one of the goals, while the second Soupal goal was assisted by Zach King and VanderVelde. West Catholic got an unassisted goal from Connor Kelbel for their last goal of the second period. The final minute, when the crowd thought five goals between the two teams would be enough, King blistered one to the back of the net with an assist by Justin Ullery, giving both teams three goals for the period and a score at the intermission, Rockford 5 and West Catholic 4.
The final period was dominated by the Rams, with two goals from Glass to complete his hat trick for the night, with assists from King and Ullery. The final Ram goal was scored by Knight, his second for the contest, with the assist from Datema. Final score for the game was Rockford 9 and West Catholic 5. Sophomore Jake Rekucki got the win in net as the Rams improve their record to 2-1 for the season.
The following day, Rockford participated in the OK Conference Showcase in Muskegon by taking on the Pioneers from East Grand Rapids High School.
The Rams controlled the play for most of the first period, but were unable to get the puck in the net. In the final minute of the first period, East Grand Rapids (EGR) got behind the defense on a breakaway with the initial shot stopped by the Rockford goaltender Todd Millar, the EGR player shot the puck from behind the net, bouncing it off Millar’s pads and into the net. End of intermission left the Rams a bit dejected as they were down 1-0 on the scoreboard, but felt they dominated puck possession.
The second period was more of the same, where Rockford was able to keep the puck in the EGR zone. Aside from a couple breakaway opportunities, EGR was many times forced to ice the puck just to get it out of their zone. Rockford did finally get on the scoreboard with a slap shot from the point from defenseman Cam Bathum. The second period ended knotted at 1-1.
The third period seemed to be where EGR turned the tide. This period found the Rams being the ones having difficulty getting the puck out of their zone. EGR put the next three goals on the board to take a strong 4-1 lead on the Rams. The Rams got the final goal of the game with a bullet slap shot from the point by Nathan Hill to put the final score EGR 4 and Rockford 2.
The loss brings the Rockford record to 2-2 on the season and a 1-1 record in league play. Rockford’s next contest will be a road game against the very talented, Forest Hills Northern/Eastern team. Game time is 5:00 p.m. at Patterson Ice Center.