Utica Eisenhower captain Ryan Jaros (18) is grabbed by Farmington Unified’s Kyle Witherspoon just 19 seconds into the game, giving Eisenhower a penalty shot during its 2-1 win at the MAC/OAA Hockey Showcase Saturday at the Onyx. (Special to The Oakland Press/CHRIS WALL)
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HOCKEY: Eagles get game-winner in third to knock off Farmington Hills Unified in battle of Oakland-Macomb county elite
ROCHESTER HILLS — The Eisenhower hockey team has been so strong this season, it can even find a way to score the game-winning goal without shooting the puck.
Such was the case on Saturday at the MAC/OAA Showcase, where the Eagles knocked off Farmington Hills Unified by a 2-1 final.
Senior forward Stino Biondo scored the go-ahead goal with 8:34 left in the third period. The goal came on an attempted pass during a two-on-one break. Biondo could only shrug when asked what happened.
“I saw we had an odd-man rush and (senior forward Drew Lauer) was coming up the left side,” Biondo explained. “I tried to get it through to him, but the (defenseman) kind of slid it in himself.”
It was the lucky break that Eisenhower needed — as it did nearly everything it could to give the lead away in the game’s final moments.
The Eagles (17-1-1 overall) took a trio of ill-timed penalties, including two back-to-back that gave the Flyers (11-7) a 62-second five-on-three man advantage.
Ike senior goalie Kenny Stralko and his defensemen held Farmngton Unified to just two shots on that power play; Biondo was a key component to the penalty kill, clearing the puck before the Flyers could get settled.
Stralko, who made 28 saves, credited Biondo’s hard work.
“(Biondo) is just an all-around difference maker out there,” Stralko said.
Ike managed to kill off yet another penalty in the game’s waning moments. The Flyers pulled their goalie and put massive pressure on the Eagles defense. It was that undisciplined play that really irked coach Bob Hall.
“We were playing selfishly at the end of the game, taking dumb penalties and putting ourselves in jeopardy,” Hall said. “Good teams don’t do that. It was a lack of discipline and we will definitely fix that.”
Hall had a ton of praise for Stralko and the defense, however.
“Kenny came up big in net,” Hall explained. “The penalty killers worked hard and did a great job.”
The Eagles carried much of the play in the second period, racking up 15 shots to the Flyers five. None of those opportunities, however, found the back of the net and the second period ended with a 1-1 deadlock.
Ike junior forward Robbie Pizzimenti had the best chance to score in the second frame. His linemate, senior Jeff VanBuhler, carried the puck across the Farmington Unified blue line. VanBuhler’s slap shot went over the net and caught the glass. The puck caromed out to the front of the net, where Pizzimenti nearly stuffed it in. He was turned back by junior goalie Jacob Ponder’s right leg. Ponder finished the game with 28 saves.
Of the Flyers’ five second-period shots, none posed much of a real threat to Stralko.
Eisenhower enjoyed a rare penalty shot, just 19 seconds into the game.
Mere moments after the contest began, senior forward Ryan Jaros was hauled down on a breakaway opportunity, yielding the penalty shot. Jaros used a backhand-to-forehand deke to elude Ponder and stake Ike to a very early 1-0 advantage.
The Flyers, however, were able to tie the score at 1-1 with a power-play goal. Junior forward Matt Goldin launched an against-the-grain wrist shot, which fooled Stralko low to the short side.
Stralko put together an excellent, three-save effort with about 8:15 left in the period. He stopped a pair of rebounds in close sequence, displaying his athleticism.