ROYAL OAK – Evan Fall scored two goals and Max Benoit stopped 24 shots as Royal Oak handed Berkley-Ferndale Unified a rare loss in the OAA White Division with a 3-1 victory Wednesday night in raucous Lindell Ice Arena.
“We knew it was going to be a tough battle,” said Fall, a fireball junior center who broke a scoreless tie in the second period. “It’s always a battle against Berkley.”
The Ravens improved to 7-9-1 overall and 4-5-1 in the Oakland Activities Association White Division.
“Fall’s been a tremendous player for us,” Royal Oak coach Craig Ward said Wednesday. “He’s a factor in every game. He’s not only a good offensive player, but he’s very good defensively.”
Fall notched the first score of the game at 7:46 of the second period when he beat Berkley-Ferndale goalie Stephen Wroe with a short-handed goal with an assist from senior Brice Kinney.
“The first goal changes the tempo of the game,” Fall said. “A win like this gives everyone confidence. We’re playing better the last three games and treating every game like it’s a playoff game.”
The Ravens went on top 2-0 with 1:11 left in the second period when senior defenseman Seth Schuit scored with the Ravens enjoying a 2-man advantage. Trey Sobolewski and Kinney recorded the assists.
“We played hard,” Ward said. “We played how we wanted to play, which was to dominate the play – to win the battles in the corner. We didn’t sit around and watch.
“This is a big rivalry,” Ward continued. “The stands were packed. They were crazy fans for both sides.”
Berkley fell to 15-4 and 9-2 in the OAA White Division, which they clinched last week.
“They outplayed us,” Berkley-Ferndale Unified coach Jeff Fleming said Wednesday. “We uncharacteristically made a lot of mistakes.”
Berkley-Ferndale Unified was 0-for-11 on the power play, but Benoit had a lot to do with stopping the surge.
“I wanted to go out and be aggressive,” said Benoit, a senior who excels at cross country and was scheduled to run in a club track meet on Thursday. “The bounces went my way. I credit our defense to all the blocked shots in front of me.”
Benoit called Wednesday’s win a ’team effort.’ “We needed a big win,” he said. “The last four or five games we’ve picked it up.”
“Max played phenomenal,” Ward said. “He’s building confidence. Day in and day out he’s getting better.”
Berkley-Ferndale Unified got on the board at 7:51 of the third period when senior defenseman Nolan Young whistled a shot from the blue line past Benoit for an unassisted goal to slice the Ravens’ lead to 2-1.
But there would be no equalizer on Wednesday.
“We made mistakes we don’t normally make,” Fleming said. “We came into a hostile rink – a fun environment to be in. But Royal Oak seized the moment. We just came off a division clinching victory at home and didn’t play well enough.”
Ward credited the hustle of many of his players.
“(Kevin) Trumble, (Pat) Boucard and Trey Sobolewski are a great line – they know where each other is at on the ice,” Ward said, then noting the hustle of players like Mathieu Bashi, Andrew Hall and Chris Schwartz. “It was a good team win.”
Fall took the puck the length of the ice and beat Wroe as the final buzzer sounded to give the Ravens the thrilling 3-1 victory. The Ravens lost their first meeting to Berkley-Ferndale, 5-1.
“They are building confidence heading into the playoffs,” Ward said.
Both teams will be back in action this weekend. Berkley-Ferndale Unified will play Anchor Bay in the OAA-MAC Showdown on Saturday, while the Ravens also play in the OAA-MAC Showdown this weekend.
“I don’t think we looked past Royal Oak,” Fleming noted. “I think they earned it and we earned what we got.”