The Rockford Rams Varsity Hockey team continues to roll, despite a rash of injuries. Rockford tied Grandville 2-2 on Friday, January 16 and beat Hudsonville 7-6 in OT on Saturday, January 17.
Rockford headed into the Friday night contest against Grandville without forward Brad Dertien who suffered a shoulder injury against Mona Shores a few nights earlier. With Dertien out, the coaching staff knew they would need to juggle lines in order to compete against a tough Grandville Bulldogs squad. Grandville held a 1-0 lead after the first period. In the middle period, both teams scored; John Filipiak netted Rockford’s first goal of the game (with Jarrett Ullrey picking up the lone helper). The second period brought new challenges for the Rams as both Filipiak and Tanner Vesche went to the locker room with game-ending injuries. The Rockford coaches reacted by moving defensemen Ullrey and Nik Baumgardner to forward leaving only four skaters on the blueline for the remainder of the game.
Despite the adversity, Rockford responded. Grandville saw their 2-1 lead disappear midway through the third period when Jacob McNamara sniped the game-tying goal into the top left corner (Ullrey and Brandon Perry assisted). The two teams remained scoreless the rest of the period and through the 8-minute overtime session. When the final horn sounded, the scoreboard read Rockford 2, Grandville 2. Ram goalie Brendan Coolbaugh made 29 saves on 31 shots in the tie.
All three injured Rockford players were scratched for the Saturday matinee contest against Hudsonville. The coaches responded by again moving Ullrey and Baumgardner up front and going with four defensemen.
Rockford started hot, scoring the first four goals of the game. Baumgardner opened the scoring 78 seconds into the contest (unassisted). Brock Johnson scored two (the first assisted by Braden King and the second assisted by King and Perry) and Taylor Edgecomb netted one (assisted by Brendan Kennedy and Connor Foss). Midway through the first Rockford held a 4-0 advantage. Hudsonville, however, would not go quietly. The Eagles responded by scoring the final two goals in the first period and four unanswered goals in the second. After 34 minutes of play, Rockford trailed 6-4.
The Rams were energized in the third period, controlling much of the play. Their effort paid off as McNamara scored early in the period (assisted by Jeff Benda and Foss) and Matt Baker netted the equalizer late in the period (assisted by Benda and Perry). With the game tied 6-6 at the end of regulation, Rockford found themselves heading into overtime for the second time in as many days. This game would not end in a tie, however. Just 61 seconds into the extra period Johnson slipped behind the Hudsonville defense to score the game winner and earn the hat trick (Kennedy and King assisted). Coolbaugh earned the win after replacing starting goalie Holly Ensley after the second period. Ensley made 15 saves on 21 shots in 34 minutes of action and Coolbaugh made 6 saves on 6 shots in 18 minutes.
Upcoming games for the Rams (2-3-0 in league play, 10-3-1 overall) include a league tilt against East Grand Rapids on Friday, January 30 at Patterson Ice Center. Game time is 8pm. Rockford then travels to Chelsea to participate in the 5th Annual Michigan Public High School Hockey Invitational Showcase. The February 1–8 event features over 60 public high school hockey programs from across the state. The Rams will face Rochester Stoney Creek on Wednesday, February 4 at 6:45pm and Marquette on Friday, February 6 at 4:15pm. All Showcase games will take place at the Chelsea Arctic Coliseum. Go Rams!