The Holidays left little down time for the Rams with 4 games over two weekends as Rockford Varsity icers go 2 and 2.
Big Rapids Cardinals Varsity Hockey hosted the annual Holiday Tournament at Ferris State Ice Arena on December 28 and 29. The Rams first challenge, last year’s MHSAA Division III State Champions, Grosse Pointe Woods University of Liggett.
Liggett started the scoring just past the halfway mark of the first period. Rockford’s Austin Cantu would tie the game less than two minutes later shooting with sniper accuracy just inside the Liggett blue line, beating the netminder over the shoulder. Assists on the goal went to Mark Cruickshank and Steve Fraser. Final shots on goal in the first period were 13-2 in favor of Liggett. Ram’s goaltender Todd Millar with 12 saves.
Rockford’s Stephen Shira would strike first just 7 seconds into the 2nd period. Shira took advantage of a Liggett defenseman when the puck stalled in wet ice at the opening faceoff. Shira took the puck right to the goal and beat the goalie just inside the left post to take a 2-1 Rams lead. Liggett would answer twice within the next 5 minutes to pull ahead 3-2. A minute later, Rockford’s Hunter Angus cleared the puck out of the Ram zone high off the glass where Ram speedster Zach Schwandt converted to a breakaway and yielded the game-tying goal. Millar had 10 saves for the second period as Liggett outshot the Rams, 12-5.
In the third period, Liggett would edge Rockford in shots on goal, 14-12. Liggett would hit pay dirt on one of their attempts to take the lead 4-3 with just under 8 minutes left to play while the Rams were unable to convert any shots to goals in the remaining minutes. The loss would match Rockford against Tournament host Big Rapids Cardinals in the consolation game the next day.
Shira continued in his scoring ways with the first goal of the consolation game against the Cardinals on Saturday. Assists on the goal went to Rams seniors, Jonas Iversen and Jacob Smyth. Rockford outshot Big Rapids 8-6 in the opening period. Ram senior netminder Jake Rekucki turned away all Cardinal chances.
Rockford opened up the goal scoring gates in the second period as Blake Erhart was credited with his first goal of the season. Erhart redirected a shot that took any chance of being stopped by the Cardinal goaltender. Assists on the goal to Nate Rozegnal and Brandon Perry. Not long after, Trevor Mills would capitalize on a Big Rapids mistake inside the Cardinal zone. A quick shot and the help of the cross bar, the puck found the netting and put the Rams up 3-0. Rockford wasn’t done yet. Ram junior Noah Brayton Scored on a near impossible goal line angle after picking up a rebounded shot taken by teammate, David Sokol. Sokol’s blast left the goalie well out of position and Brayton made no mistake in finishing as the puck soared into the open net. After 2 periods Rockford outshot the Cards, 11-7. Rekucki denied all 7 shots and gave the Rams a solid 4-0 lead with 17 minutes left to play.
The final period was controlled by the Rams who outshot the Cardinals 12-6. Rockford extended the lead to five when Erhart received a pass from Mills behind the Big Rapids net. Erhart fed a tape-to-tape pass to Brayton who fired a quick blast through the Cardinal goaltender for his second goal of the game. Final score, 5-0. Rekucki picked up the shutout for the game and the win for their last game or 2012.
The Rams first games of 2013 were both at the Walker Ice & Fitness Center in the Annual Walker Classic Tournament held on January 4th and 5th. On Friday, the Pioneers of East Grand Rapids would prove to be a tough challenge again for Rockford as they tied 3-3 just 3 weeks prior. In addition to the tournament, the game would double as a Tier I league game.
Much to no one’s surprise, the game was deadlocked at zero for the first period. Millar, in net for the Rams, stopped all eight shots. At the other end, the EGR goalie was only challenged with 3 shots which were all denied.
Penalties plagued the Pioneers in the next period which gave the Rams many chances to score. Rockford outshot EGR by a margin of 15 to 6, however neither goaltender was willing to let any pucks get behind them. Deadlocked again after two periods.
So, why would the third period be any different. Rockford outshot the Pioneers 10-6 with no goals for either side, sending the game to overtime. Again. For the fifth overtime game in Rockford’s thirteen games on the season. In the eight minute overtime period, Rockford would keep EGR from getting any shots on goal. The Rams managed to put 3 shots on goal. With less than 3 minutes to play in the overtime, David Sokol moved the puck to Blake Erhart in the neutral zone with room to move, Erhart crossed the EGR blue line and fired a clapper that surprised the EGR goalie and deflected into the netting. Rockford’s bench cleared to mob Erhart and celebrate the victory. Millar’s shutout and the win gave Rockford two important points in league plan and put them in the championship game against the always tough Bulldogs of Grandville.
Grandville’s two first period goals in the game were all that was needed in the loss for the Rams. The Bulldogs outshot Rockford 10-2 in the opening period. The next two periods showed the Rams with the upper hand as they outshot the Dawgs 16-9, and 10-4, respectively, in the next two periods. Grandville’s goaltender denied all 28 Rams chances. Rockford’s Rekucki stopped 21 of 23 Grandville shots.
Be sure to visit www.RockHockey.org for the latest updates and game schedule. Check out several upcoming games you won’t want to miss.