Rockford varsity hockey begins 2012 in tournament action

Austin Cantu knocks down the Jackson Lumen Christi player to stop them from scoring.

The Rams varsity hockey team played their final games of 2011 in the annual Big Rapids Holiday Invitational on December 28 and 30, and kicked off the New Year with the annual Walker Classic on January 6 and 7.

Rockford’s icers drew Jackson Lumen Christi (JLC) for the first game of the Big Rapids tournament.

First period saw the Titans of JLC strike first only 1:26 into the period. Rams junior Austin Cantu answered less than three minutes later to tie the score at one. Assisting on the goal went to junior Stephen Shira and sophomore Trevor Mills.

Second period action started much like the first. Just 1:47 into the period, the Titans found the scoreboard. Five minutes later, a JLC penalty gave the Rams a man advantage. Unfortunately, the Titans scored two short-handed goals in a 15-second time span to give them a 4-1 lead. During the same penalty, 27 seconds later, Rockford junior Jacob Smyth answered with a goal to put the Rams within two goals. Junior Nate Hill was credited with the assist. The Titans continued to roll with a late-period goal to go up 5-2.

The lone third-period goal was scored by the Titans in similar fashion to the first and second periods. At 1:29 into the period, the sixth and final goal of the game gave JLC the lead they needed for the win. The Rams outshot the Titans 27-25 for the game.

In the consolation game, Rockford outlasted tournament host Big Rapids Cardinals to a 5-4 win for their final game of 2011.

Enter 2012 and the annual Walker Classic at Walker Ice and Fitness Center. Rockford faced Grandville for the second league game of the season. The Bulldogs had redemption in mind to avenge the previous loss to the Rams.

At 6:44 into the first period, Rockford began their quest to deny Grandville any redemption. Hill was the first to find the netting with a feed from junior defenseman Cam Bathum. Junior goaltender Todd Millar turned away all Bulldog shots for the period.

Grandville started the scoring in the second frame nine minutes into the period to tie the game at one. With 31 seconds to play in the period, junior Jacob Smyth received a perfect pass that led to a breakaway goal and a 2-1 lead to take into the locker room. Assists on the goal went to Hill and freshman Conner Broderick.

No scoring in the third period gave the Rams their first win in 2012 and a bid to the tournament final against the Monroe Trojans.

Rockford’s first period play in the championship game was dominant, with the Rams outshooting the Trojans, 16-4. However, it was the Trojans who had the period’s only tally and a 1-0 lead.

Penalty troubles for the Rams early in the second period gave Monroe the momentum they needed to control the game their way. The Trojans outshot Rockford 17-4 and found the only goal of the period for a 2-0 lead.

The third period was all Monroe, again outshooting the Rams 10-3 for the period and getting two more goals to stretch the lead to a 4-0 final score.

Rockford travels to Muskegon to face conference rival Mona Shores Wednesday, Jan. 11. On Saturday, Jan. 14 at 8 p.m., the Rams will face another conference foe, Forest Hills Northern/Eastern at Patterson Ice Center.

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