Varsity hockey starts conference play with 2 key wins

By Gordon Angus

 

On Thanksgiving eve, The Rams faced off against 2011-2012 OK Conference Tier 1 Champs, the Cougars of GR Catholic Central. First period action proved to be a slow start for both teams. The Rams managed to put seven shots on the Cougar goaltender but all were turned away. Rockford goaltender, Todd Millar denied two shots, ending the period scoreless. Another six minutes of game would pass by before Rockford took advantage of a Catholic Central penalty. On the power play, Ram forward David Sokol moved the puck to teammate Nick Larsen, who quickly released a hard snap shot that was too much for the Cougar goalie to handle. The puck edged over the goal line and put Rockford up 1-0. The Rams outshot the Cougars 10 to 9. Millar stopped all nine Cougar shots in the period. The final period was similar to the first two with very few chances for either team to score. With a minute left in the game, Catholic Central pulled their goalie to add another attacker in an attempt to score. With 45 seconds left in the game, forward Stephen Shira attempted to put the game away for Rockford, battling for the puck with two Cougar players. Shira won possession and skated toward the empty Cougar goal only to be hauled down just prior to shooting. He never got the shot off but it wasn’t necessary. The goal was awarded to Shira as a penalty shot was called by the referee. Since the net was empty (no goalie), the rule states that a goal is awarded. Millar stopped all seven Cougar chances in the period to record his first shutout of the season.

The first OK Conference win was the start the Rams needed going into Friday’s East Kentwood Falcon classic. The Rams faced the home team Falcons with winning in mind. Not an easy feat, considering the Rams have never recorded a win against the Falcons in their home rink. Letting the Rams know it was war, East Kentwood would strike first, just six minutes into the game, beating Millar over the right shoulder. Less than thirty seconds after the East Kentwood goal, defenseman Cam Bathum fired a shot from the blue line that Shira perfectly re-directed over the shoulder of the Falcon goalie into the netting to tie the game 1-1. A few minutes later, a Falcon penalty would prove costly. With the Rams on the power play, forward Austin Cantu stole the puck from an East Kentwood defender and put a quick backhand shot on net. A frantic scramble for the puck in front of the net could not change the momentum of the puck that found its way into the net giving the Rams the lead 2-1. The one goal lead was dashed as a Falcon player’s shot was deflected in front of the net and ended up getting past Millar to tie the game 2-2. The Rams were not done either. With 43 seconds left in the period, Sokol picked up a loose puck in the high slot and blasted a quick shot that beat the Falcon netminder over his glove, giving the Rams a 3-2 lead after one period. The second period was back and forth, with scoring chances denied at both ends of the ice. With just under two minutes left in the period, an East Kentwood player’s breakaway would end up with the puck in the back of Millar’s net. After two periods, the score was tied at 3. No scoring in the 3rd period left the 3-3 tie and sudden death overtime.

The overtime started with both teams being careful not to make mistakes. Just over three minutes into the overtime, a Kentwood player attempted to carry the puck into Rockford’s zone. Ram defenseman Conner Broderick stepped into the Kentwood player, who was visibly stunned and had a difficult time skating back to his bench. At the same time, Ram forward Steve Fraser saw line mate, Hunter Angus all alone in the neutral zone. Angus had a wide open lane with the injured Kentwood player on his way back to the bench. With no Falcons between him and their goalie, Angus drove toward the net and fired a shot that was deflected off the Falcon goalie’s skate into the boards behind the net. The puck rebounded back to Angus who beat the Falcon goalie and he could cover the open net. Never say never again! The Rockford Rams defeated the Falcons at East Kentwood for the first time in Rockford Varsity Hockey history.

The win put Rockford in the final game the following day against Forest Hills Central. The end result of the game favored the Rangers with a 5-3 victory. The Rams, who out played the Rangers, ran into a hot goalie making 38 saves. Goaltender Jake Rekucki made 22 saves for the Rams. Rockford goals were credited to Shira (assists to Angus and Jacob Smyth), Bathum (assist to Smyth), and Trevor Mills (assists to Fraser and Nate Rozegnal).

Be sure to catch the Rams in action this season. For team and schedule information visit www.RockHockey.org.

 

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