Hockey - Boys

Mt. Pleasant closes three one-goal deficits, but falls to Flint Powers Catholic WITH PHOTO GALLERY

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Thrice in the first two periods Mt. Pleasant went down by one goal, and all three times it responded by coming back to tie the score. Replicating the feat a fourth time however, was not on the cards as Flint Powers Catholic surged back ahead midway through the final period, eventually topping the Oilers by a final score of 5-3.

“I think we made a few mistakes that were just system things,” said Oiler head coach Mike Willett. “I thought our system was really good, but really good against a great team doesn't cut it. We've got another six or eight weeks before the playoffs and we need to improve on our system. If it gets stronger, we can become a great team too.”

Despite the defeat, Willett and his team can take a lot of positives out of the way they played against a powerhouse in Flint Powers Catholic (12-3, 3-1 SVL). The Chargers came into the game ranked no. 6 in Division 3 and are certainly one of the favorites to come out on top of the Saginaw Valley League this season.

The Oilers (11-2), off to the best start in program history, have also climbed into the rankings as of late – ranked no. 11 – but continue to be without star junior Zach Heeke (18 goals, 18 assists), who re-aggravated his shoulder and is expected to miss the next six weeks.

In Heeke's absence, Mt. Pleasant was able to come back to beat Tri-Valley on Saturday and it continued to show its grit on Wednesday in battling back from three one-goal deficits to keep the game within reach.

“Zach is a great player,” remarked Willett. “One of the best around I think, but one man doesn't make a team and that showed tonight against one of the best team in the Saginaw Valley. We held our own without probably our best player and that's what a team can do when you have all the guys going in the same direction.”

The Oilers definitely displayed their cohesiveness as a unit against the Chargers as there were many times a lesser team could have, and probably would have folded. Mt. Pleasant was outshot 36-10 in the contest including a staggering 15-3 in the first period, in which it found itself down 1-0 courtesy of a power-play goal by Flint Powers Catholic's Connor Witherspoon with 6:30 to play.

It was the second-consecutive contest in which the Oilers have failed to score while conceding in the first period, and to reach its potential, getting off to stronger starts is something that Willett believes his team will need to improve on.

“It's just one more thing to get better at,” he said. “We talk about the first period and that it is definitely something we can improve on. We need to get better at coming out in the first period and better at system stuff and as we continue to keep getting to know each other we are going to get better in every game and who knows where it will end.”

Similar to the game against Tri-Valley, the Oilers found their offensive rhythm in the second as, less than five minutes in, Mitchell Haines and Logan Elliot set up Collin Lambert, who found the back of the net to tie the score at 1-1. The Chargers would retake the with eight minutes to play, but Mt. Pleasant responded less than a minute later on a power-play goal by Max Trucks to even the score back up at two goals apiece. Lambert was credited with the assist.

With the home crowd on its feet from the equalizer, Mt. Pleasant looked to have captured all the momentum but with less than six minutes to go in the period found itself down a man as Alex Dickinson headed to the penalty box. Just 20 seconds later, Kaleb Ramon joined Dickinson and suddenly, the Oilers were on their heals facing a five-one-three.

Mt. Pleasant, to its credit, did a fabulous job at killing the penalties, but with three seconds remaining before even strength it got a dose of bad luck as Mike Forman scored a controversial goal. The Oilers' players, coaches and fans alike hotly disputed the call, but to their dismay, after a short discussion, the referees deemed it good as Mt. Pleasant found itself down, yet again, 3-2.

Three minutes in to the final period however, the Oilers found another equalizer as Max Trucks set up his younger brother Kyle Trucks for a breakaway goal to tie the score back up at 3-3.

“The guys in there believe in each other and when they do that there is nothing that can stop them,” said Willett about his team's ability to respond after conceding, “We go down a goal or two goals sometimes, but when you believe in the guy next to you, there's no, 'oh no,' there's just, 'what's next and how do we improve.' That's our group.”

Unfortunately for Mt. Pleasant, it was unable to issue a fourth response as Witherspoon netted his second goal of the afternoon with 10 minutes to play in the third, putting the Chargers back on top 4-3.

“In the D-Zone it's a man-on-man type thing and sometimes we lose our man and don't communicate,” said Willett about his team's struggles to keep Flint Powers Catholic off the scoreboard. “So it's about continuing to communicate and continuing to get to know the guys around you. That takes a ton of time, because you're out there with a different set all the time.”

With 1:42 left in the third, the Oilers made one last ditch effort to find the equalizer as they pulled goaltender Aaron Friedlein, who made an impressive 31 saves in the game, but just 20 seconds later Flint Powers Catholic was able to ice the game on an empty-net goal by Mike Forman.

Mt. Pleasant will look to respond from the loss on Saturday when it goes on the road to take on the FNV Griffins – a team comprised of players from Freeland, Saginaw Nouvel and Valley Lutheran. Game time is slated for 6:50 p.m.

“The way I look at it is everyday, get better at what you do,” said Willett about what he would like to see from his team in the matchup. “I don't care what team we're playing, if you get better at what you do everyday, where's the ceiling? We probably won't find it.”

Last Updated: 1/22/2015 11:30:36 PM EST