WATERFORD – The visiting Walled Lake Western Warriors picked up a 3-2 win over the Lakeland Eagles in KLAA boys hockey action Wednesday evening.
The opportunistic Warriors struck first when Steven Fillip pounced on a loose puck after a face off and snapped it into the net midway through the first period. The Warriors would take that lead to the locker room despite being outshot 14-5 in the period. Jalen Cooper made it 2-0 Warriors with 6:34 to play in the second period when he banged in a rebound.
“We took advantage of our opportunities, “Warriors head coach Andy Miller said.
At the other end, the Eagles were snake bitten much of the night, hitting the post twice in the first period and then missing two empty nets in the second period.
“We were fighting it. We had opportunities, and we didn’t cash in obviously. It was a game that we wanted. It just didn’t work out that way,” Lakeland head coach Tim Ronayne said. “Walled Lake (Western) is a very underrated team. They’ve got some good players on that team, and they’ve got a very good goaltender,” he added.
Joey Blackwell finally got the Warriors on the board late in the second period to cap a well executed Eagles break. Garrett Unsworth started the play in his own zone with a cross ice clearing pass that hit Justin Pahl right on the tape. Pahl carried the puck deep and back across the ice, steaming down the right side boards before throwing a pass to Blackwell who as charging down the slot and managed to hold off the Warriors defense enough to muscle the puck into the net and cut the lead to 2-1.
“He went to the net real hard, and that’s what we’ve been teaching,” Ronayne said.
But the Eagles would be unable to carry that momentum into the third period, and goaltender Wes Raske would make some key saves down the stretch for Walled Lake Western to preserve the victory, finishing with 25 saves in all.
Raske also had plenty of help from his defense as the Warriors defensive corps led by, Brendan Michaelian and Trevor Couch , controlled the transition games of both teams, starting things off well in their own zone for the Walled Lake Western and, outside of Blackwell’s goal, largely shutting down the Eagles attempts to counter with odd man rushes of their own.
“Our defense is pretty key in controlling the play,” Miller said. “It’s nice to see them be able to control the puck and headman it, get it out of the zone.”
The teams traded power play goals in the third period with Matt Zimolzak scoring for Walled Lake Western and Unsworth answering for the Eagles just over three minutes later.
“I’m impressed that they came out, stayed poised, and came through and got the win,” Miller said of his team.
With the win, Walled Lake Western improves to 7-8-3 overall and 3-3-2 in KLAA play. The Warriors host Waterford Kettering on Saturday night. Lakeland slips to 7-6-3 overall and 3-5-1 in KLAA play ahead of Saturday’s trip to Pinckney for another KLAA game.