Coming off a game they would like to forget Wednesday, Jan. 19, the Rams came out Saturday night, Jan. 22, against Forest Hills Central (FHC) with something to prove.
Both teams started out fast and physical, but Rockford, while killing off the game’s first penalty, saw Nathan Hill get loose on a breakaway and blast a shot through the Ranger goalie’s five hole to put the Rams up 1-0. Less than two minutes later, Rockford put another score on the board when Zach Schwandt buried the puck in the back of the net after a perfect pass through the slot from Austin Cantu. Ben Glass got the rush started on that goal with a great outlet pass to Cantu to start the two-on-one breakaway. With the Rams up 2-0, they continued the pressure on the Rangers when, again, the freshman Schwandt went top shelf on the FHC goalie to go up 3-0. Cantu again got the assist along with Glass.
The visiting Rockford crowd was fired up as the Rams left the ice for the first intermission with a three-goal lead.
The second period started out with the Rams controlling the puck in the FHC zone for the opening couple minutes. With 14:35 on the clock, Rockford’s Eric Datema fired it home after a great pass from behind the net from Glass and Justin Ullrey.
The Rangers finally got on the board after a shot from FHC. Tyler Brewer shot a rocket just to the short side of the Rockford net, which caromed off the glass to a waiting FHC forward, who one-timed it into the net. With 2:51 left in the second, Zach Vandawater bounced one off the leg of a Ranger defenseman into the net. Jacob Smyth got the assist with some gritty work in front of the net to gain possession for the Rams.
The final goal of the period came on a breakaway by the very quick Cam Pulling for the Rangers, as he snuck it in five hole on the Rockford goalie, to make the score Rockford 5, FHC 2. Through three periods, Rockford outshot the Rangers 23-12.
In the beginning of the final period, neither team seemed to get in an offensive flow as they both traded penalties, which seemed to upset the rhythm of their game.
For the last half of the period, Rockford played a very solid defensive scheme to put the game away, making sure that there were no odd-man rushes by the Rangers to put the lead in jeopardy. Rams goaltender Todd Millar came up with a few very good saves in the final period to deny any FHC attempt at a comeback. The Rangers continued to put pressure in the Rams’ defensive end, but Rockford sealed up the victory with a convincing 5-2 win. Shots on goal ended up to be very even in the end, as Rockford had 25 while FHC got 24 through. Millar got the win for the Rams, turning away 22 of 24 shots.
The Rams’ next contest is a rematch against the Forest Hills Northern/Eastern team on Wednesday, Jan. 26, at Walker Ice and Fitness. The Rams will be at Walker Ice and Fitness again on Friday, Jan. 28, to go up against Grand Rapids Christian at 8:00 p.m.