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Late dramatics: Mount Pleasant defeats rival Midland for first time in program history with third-period barrage WITH GALLERY

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A win over Midland was an unattainable feat the previous eight years for the Mount Pleasant High School hockey team.

Sure, there were some close calls along the way but the Chemics always managed to get the upper hand on the Oilers.

So when the score stood at 2-0 in favor of Midland in the third period Wednesday night at I.C.E. Arena, it was only fair to believe the Mount Pleasant drought against its rivals would extend one more game.

But then something special happened.

Suddenly, the 2-0 deficit turned into a 3-2 victory with Isaac Angera scoring the game-tying and go-ahead goals on the power play in the latter minutes of the third period.

When the clock hit zero, the Oilers jubilantly exited the bench and embraced as a team to celebrate the nine-year program’s first-ever win over Midland.

“This is a big monkey off our back,” Mount Pleasant head coach Michael Willett said. “Midland is traditionally a powerhouse in hockey. In our ninth year as a program to get a win over Midland is a big steppingstone for our program.”

Nothing was easy about it.

A game that was defensive and filled with strong goaltending saw the Chemics finally break through with 59 seconds left in the second period. Greg Landis found the back of the net off an assist from Luke Trombley.

The Oilers could not find an equalizer, while Midland tacked on another at the 10:36 mark of the third period as Chris Guillemette put one past Mount Pleasant senior goalie Andrew Lambert.

That tally could have been the dagger. To the Oilers’ credit, it was not.

“We were down 2-0 but we knew we had to stick together as a team,” said Angera, a defenseman and one of five senior captains on the roster. “Coach tells us we’re a third period team. We had some adversity in the first and second periods, but we really came on strong in the third. We put together some plays.”

Willett could sense a turning of the tides as the third period began to unfold.

“I had a sense,” Willett remarked. “That third period, I told the team that we found our stride and figured out what we needed to be. We’ve been searching for that a little bit. We had to be a little scrappy. Look at all three of those goals. Not one of them was pretty.”

It all started when junior forward Cole Smallwood put the Oilers (4-2) on the board with 6:21 remaining on a goal in front of the net. Angera and Path Fillion assisted with the score.

Going on the power play shortly thereafter, Angera took position in front of the net and put the game-tying goal into the back of the net with 4:36 to play. Smallwood picked up the assist.

Angera was not done.

Mount Pleasant returned to the power play and Angera resumed residence in front of the net, using his frame to battle for the puck and register the go-ahead goal at the four-minute mark. Assists were given to Kaleb Ramon and Kyle Trucks.

“They were basically the same goal,” Angera said. “Those are fun, being in front of the net. As a defenseman, you’re never the hero. So when we’re on the power play and I’m asked to be in front of the net, I love those opportunities. I’m glad it paid off tonight.”

Over the final three-plus minutes, Mount Pleasant held off a Chemics charge and could finally celebrate a win over its rivals.

Lambert turned away 34 shots on the night, providing an MVP-like performance before the MPHS offense found its way in crunch time.

“This is huge for our team,” Lambert said. “I’ve played here for three years. Our seniors have never had a chance to beat Midland. No one who has played here has. This is special for all of us. It’s a big confidence win for us and a building block for this program.”

The Oilers lost a pair of top-notch goal scorers from a season ago in Zach Heeke (25 goals, 39 assists) and Max Trucks (29 goals, 24 assists) as they graduated, leaving a void in the scoring department that needed filling.

Instead of asking one or two players to pick up the slack, Willett knew the best chance for success would be for Mount Pleasant to distribute fairly evenly the goals left behind by Heeke and Trucks’ departures.

“Everybody just had to get a little bit better,” Willett said. “We’re not going to make up 50 goals with two guys. But if everyone chips in a few, we can make up for that lost production.”

Five Oilers seniors – Angera, Lambert, Ramon, Trucks and Aaron Friedlein – are all co-captains and have provided the leadership necessary for the program not to take a steep decline following a school-record 19-win season.

“We named them all captains,” Willett said. “The three skaters wear the letters, but our two goalies have an ‘A’ on the back of their helmets to show they are also captains. I couldn’t ask for anything more out of them as leaders. No one has to ask. They are our leaders.

Angera was honored to be asked to wear the ‘C’ on his jersey heading into his senior season.

“It was a really big honor,” Angera said. “I’ve been on the team for three years now. To see four other captains go before me and to try and continue to build what we’re trying to do here, it’s nice to be looked at as one of the leaders. We’ve been trying to push forward for nine years, except we’d never been able to beat Midland. So I think this is a really positive direction.”

Lambert has shared net-minding duties for the last three years with Friedlein, who has been a four-year varsity performer.

With two strong goalies in the mix, it is a definite strength for Mount Pleasant no matter who gets the call between the pipes on any given night.

“We’ve both embraced it,” Lambert stated. “It’s a good thing to have two good goalies on the team. He’s the guy that pushes me to be my best. We both go as hard as we can when we are in the game and are always cheering each other on from the bench.”

Mount Pleasant has won its last two games heading into the weekend’s Oiler Invite at I.C.E. Arena. It opens Friday at 5 p.m. versus Clarkston, while a scheduled game against a to-be-determined opponent will take place Saturday at either 11 a.m. or 1 p.m.

“Everyone has bought into our system and now we have a win over Midland to be proud about,” Lambert added. “Now we’ll see where we can take it from here. As a senior, I know this is my last hurrah so I’m going to give it my all and have some fun.”

Last Updated: 12/7/2016 11:44:55 PM EST