TROY – Captains Shane Switzer and Sebastian Stankiewicz led the way as the Birmingham Detroit Country Day Yellowjackets opened their boys hockey season with a 7-2 victory over the host Troy Athens Red Hawks on Wednesday night.
Country Day came out buzzing right from the start, building up a 6-0 lead in the first two periods behind hustle and strong skating before the Red Hawks finally got going in the third period.
“Hats off to Country Day, two weeks into the season and they’re moving like they’ve been skating for five or six months already,” Red Hawks head coach Joe Barone said. “It came down to just moving your feet and wanting it more, and they showed that they wanted that puck more than us. When we finally woke up in the third period and showed that we wanted it more, we won the period 2-1 but it takes three periods to play this game.”
In particular, the Yellowjackets were able to find space down low and get clean shots off against Red Hawk goaltender Jeff Merola.
"We stress about getting pucks in and battling like that, nothing fancy. We want to get their defense handling the puck and make their defense turn. It’s simple and it was real evident,” Yellowjackets head coach Frank Novock said. “We scored by doing that; when we got away from it, they got chances.”
The Yellowjackets broke the game wide open in the second period. Leading 2-0 to start the period, Country Day would add four more goals in the second period, including three power play markers. Defenseman Jake Hartje got things going for the Yellowjackets in the second period, scoring a power play goal just 46 seconds into the period to make it 3-0.
Switzer would add a power play goal with 12:17 to play in the period. The goal completed his hat trick for the night, and he would later add two assists. Just 27 seconds later, Patrick Adams would redirect a puck home from the slot area to make it 5-0. Stankiewicz would add on two more goals for the Yellowjackets, a power play goal later in the second and an even strength goal in the third to complete the scoring. Stankiewicz would finish with four points on the night.
“They (Switzer and Stankiewicz) are going to be our best players almost every night,” Novock said. “They were both all-state guys last year. I firmly believe they’re college hockey players. They put a lot of time and effort in. They have a great work ethic.”
Another important factor for the Yellowjackets was their strong penalty kill, which was a perfect 8 for 8 on the night including killing off a pair of five on threes. “Special teams are so critical at any level, and tonight we were real good,” Novock said.
Chris Cantrell made 14 saves for the Yellowjackets to pick up the win, which Novock attributed to a good overall team game.
“We’ve only been practicing for two weeks, and they’ve done a great job of buying in. They know no one is bigger than the team, and it was a good team effort tonight,” Novock said.
Jeff Merola battled through an injury he picked up in the first period to make 28 saves for the Red Hawks.
“Unbeknownst to everybody, he actually got injured after the second goal,” Barone said. “He stuck it out, and there’s probably a couple he wishes he had back. But with the injury I’m proud of him for sticking it out for all three periods.”
Country Day (1-0) has a busy start to the season hosting Saline on Friday and Flint Power on Saturday. Athens (0-1) has a couple of days to regroup before taking on Warren Mott Saturday at the Hazel Park Arena.