The MHSAA Ice Hockey playoffs come and go in a hurry. As the month of February ends, high school hockey teams from around the state begin the journey to what they hope will be a state championship at USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth. And by the 11th of March, six games later, it’s all over.
Game 1: the Rockford Rams Varsity Hockey Club began the “road to Plymouth” with a pre-regional contest against Grand Haven on Monday, February 27. The Rams secured a lop-sided 7-1 win over the Buccaneers, one of the top teams in Tier 3 of the OK Conference. Strong offense combined with gritty defense and solid play in net helped the Rams earn the win.
Game 2: two nights later the Rams battled Reeths-Puffer in the next round of pre-regional play. These two teams split a pair of league games during the regular season, so this was sure to be a quality contest. RP jumped out to a 3-1 lead in the first period. In the middle session, Rockford fought back to take a 5-4 lead. Heading into the third period, the Rams continued the assault to earn the 8-5 win.
Game 3: the win over Reeths-Puffer earned Rockford a third straight trip to Ferris State University and the Region 1 Championship Game on Saturday, March 4. Awaiting Rockford was Traverse City West. The Rams knew a win required a great effort. Controlling the game from the beginning, Rockford earned the 5-2 victory and a second straight Regional Championship.
Game 4: on Wednesday, March 8 the Rams traveled back to Ferris State to face Grandville in a MHSAA State Quarterfinal contest. These two teams know each other well, having split a pair of OK Tier 1 league games during the season and having battled in last year’s Quarterfinal game. Last year, Grandville got the best of Rockford. This year the Rams were seeking revenge. The puck did not bounce in Rockford’s favor. Grandville scored 3 goals within the first 5 minutes of the game. The Rams put up a fight but Grandville wouldn’t be beat. When the final horn sounded, the scoreboard read Grandville 8, Rockford 4.
The loss signaled the end of the 2016/17 season for the Rams and the end of high school hockey for nine Rockford seniors. Graduating this spring are forwards Brendan Kennedy (C), Niklas Baumgardner (A), Adam Brayton (A) and Matt Baker; defensemen Brandon Schwandt (C), Brendan Hutchings (A), Andy Fulbright and Ian Greco; and goaltender Steven Hazzard.
Rockford ended the 2016/17 season with a 16-13-0 record overall and a 4-9-0 record in OK Conference Tier 1 league play (tied for 6th place).