By TIM BAUMGARDNER
The Rockford Rams Varsity Hockey Club traveled to Kalamazoo on January 20 and 21 in hopes of ending a three-game skid. Match-ups against Mattawan and Portage Northern is just what the doctor ordered.
On Friday, January 20, the Rams traveled to Wings West Arena in Kalamazoo to battle Mattawan. Rockford entered the game without two key contributors: Adam Brayton (concussion) and alternate captain Niklas Baumgardner (coaches decision). The game got off to a slow start as each team was held scoreless in the opening period.
The Ice Rams scored the first two goals of the game in the middle stanza: Brendan Kennedy, from Ryan Earl; and Heath Drye, from Brandon Schwandt. Mattawan scored a goal late in the second period to make it 2-1.
It was all Rockford in the third period; in fact it was all Ryan Earl in the third period. Earl picked up a natural hat trick scoring all three goals for the Rams in the final period. Aidan Hoffman and Brendan Hutchings assisted on Earl’s first goal, the second was unassisted, and Kennedy and Ian Greco picked up the helpers on the hat trick goal.
When the final horn sounded, the scoreboard read: Rockford 5, Mattawan 1. Goaltender Mike Woolston was solid in net for the Rams, allowing one goal on 26 shots and earning the win.
On Saturday, January 21, the Rams were back at Wings West for a re-match against Portage Northern (Rockford beat Portage Northern 8-0 early in the season). Similar to the Friday game, the Rams got off to a slow start. Portage Northern took advantage of scoring chances and powerplays to earn a 2-0 lead early in the first period. Rockford cut the lead in half on a goal by Heath Drye, assisted by Matt Baker. Portage Northern responded a few moments later to make it 3-1. The Rams scored their second goal of the game late in the opening period: Schwandt, from Hutchings. The Ice Rams trailed 3-2 heading into the second period.
Drye scored his second goal of the game late in the middle period to make it 3-3. Kevin Healy picked up the lone assist.
The game was knotted at 3 when the third period began. The Ice Rams were too much for Portage Northern in the final 17 minutes, recording five goals in the final session: Baker, assisted by Schwandt; Schwandt, assisted by Drye; Drye, assisted by Schwandt; Healy, assisted by Cade Baumgardner and Earl; and Baker, assisted by Schwandt and Hutchings.
In the end, it was Rockford 8, Portage Northern 3. Goaltenders Joey Nowak and Steven Hazzard shared the net for the Rams; Hazzard picked up the win.
The Ice Rams (9-7-0 overall, 0-3-0 league) end the season with 9 tough OK Tier 1 league contests. Coming up next: Rockford travels to Walker Ice & Fitness Center to battle Grandville on Friday, January 27 at 7pm. On Saturday, February 4, the Rams travel to L.C. Walker Arena in Muskegon for a mid-afternoon tilt against Reeths-Puffer. Puck drop for this contest is 4pm.