Wednesday night, Feb. 23 at Walker Ice Arena, the Rockford varsity hockey team took on the Crusaders from Muskegon Catholic Central in a rematch of an earlier contest, in which both teams had skated to a 4-4 tie. This night was much different.
Early in the contest, Rockford got on the board when freshman Zach Schwandt deked past a defender and snuck the puck in the net past the Crusaders’ goaltender just two minutes into the contest. Ten seconds later, Rockford gave up a goal after the initial shot was stopped, and a Crusaders skater was there on the doorstep to drive it home to even the score early at one.
The scoring for the Rams continued when Nathan Hill, after receiving a perfect pass from Justin Ullrey in the corner, found the back of the net to again put the Rams ahead. The rest of the period was much calmer, as both teams had scoring chances. But it was at the 1:19 mark in the first when Alex Schrotenboer converted on a rebound to score, with Zach King and Hill getting the assists.
The second period continued with the Rams dominating. Only one minute into the period, Ullrey scored on a rebound after Hill’s shot was originally stopped by the Crusaders’ goalie to make the score 4-1 Rams.
One of the best goals of the season came next on a Ram power play as a one-touch pass from Erik Datema to Hill to King was one-timed into the net by King. It was a thing of beauty that was great to see, knowing that a play so well run is almost impossible to defend when the opponent is a man down.
The end of the second had both teams off to the locker room with the Rams up 6-1.
In the third period, the Rams came out looking to light the lamp. At the beginning of the second minute of the period, Hill got loose and faked out the Crusaders defender to score an unassisted goal, putting the Rams up 7-1.
Three minutes later, it looked like the Rams were going to make this a shortened game, as Ullrey got loose behind the Muskegon Catholic defense to score on a breakaway with a great move to get it past the Crusaders goaltender. Datema got the assist with a great outlet pass to get the breakaway started.
Something happened midway through the period that caught the Rams on their heels for a bit, as the Crusaders were determined to not let this game end in a mercy with another Ram goal. At the 9:17 mark, Muskegon Catholic Central capitalized by getting a shot through to the Rockford net that found the back, bringing the score to 8-2. One minute later, the Crusaders notched another score, bringing the score to 8-3, which was followed by two more Crusader goals.
With 5:53 left in the game, Rockford’s lead had shrunk to 8-5 and the crowd began to get a bit nervous. The Rams got things back together when they found themselves on a power play and were able to duplicate the “tic tac toe” sequence from earlier in the game to score. This time it was Hill to Ullrey to King, with the one-timer driven to the back of the net.
Rockford added one more goal by Datema with assists going to Thomas Soupal and Zach Vandawater to make the final score Rockford 10 and Muskegon Catholic Central 5. The Rams had a number of players with multiple points in this game, with Hill leading the way with four assists and two goals. Ullrey had two assists and two goals, King had two assists and two goals, and Datema had one assist and one goal.