Rochester United’s Jimmy Pittel (8) keeps his eyes on his shot as Clarkston’s Drake Gentile (23) puts a stick in front during the first period of the OAA Red semifinal game played on Saturday at the Birmingham Ice Arena. (Special to the Oakland Press/KEN SWART)
Hockey - Boys
HOCKEY: Rochester United cruises past Clarkston and into OAA Red final WITH VIDEO
Rochester United’s Max Harper (22) takes a shot on goal as Clarkston’s Eric Matynowski (7) tries to block the shot during the first period Saturday at the Birmingham Ice Arena. (Special to the Oakland Press/KEN SWART)
Clarkston’s Joe Popp (3) moves the puck past Rochester United’s Ryan Bradley (13) Saturday. (Special to the Oakland Press/KEN SWART)
Rochester United’s Ryan Bradley (13) puts a shot on net during the first period against Clarkston Saturday at the Birmingham Ice Arena. (Special to the Oakland Press/KEN SWART)
BIRMINGHAM – The last time Rochester United and Clarkston faced off, the Wolves tallied six goals en route to a 6-4 win back in mid-December.
In Saturday night’s OAA semifinal game, Rochester made sure that wouldn’t happen again.
Rochester raced out to a 2-0 first period lead, while its defense clamped down on the Clarkston offensive attack, and ran away to a convincing 5-1 win.
Rochester head coach Craig Staskowski noted that his team had a bit of extra incentive coming into Saturday’s game as Rochester was looking to exact a bit of revenge on Clarkston to go along with trying to advance to the OAA title game.
“Truthfully, we’ve been working a lot on systems and trying to get ready for the playoffs,” he said. “We knew Clarkston could be a team that we could see later in the playoffs, so we knew we had to come out and we were trying to avenge a game we played earlier in the year. This was the only team in the league that we hadn’t beaten this year, so it was a little extra motivation.”
Rochester, which came into the tournament as the top ranked team in the bracket, now advances to play Stoney Creek next Saturday in the OAA championship game.
Rochester’s Zack Decker started the scoring on Saturday night as he tallied a power play goal with eight minutes left in the opening period to give United the early 1-0 advantage.
Rochester then took a 2-0 lead two minutes later, as it was back on the power play and defenseman Drew Harm sent a shot past the Clarkston goalie from the blue line.
Clarkston head coach Bryan Krygier said that after a pair of calls that he found to be unfavorable for his team, which set up power plays for Rochester, the Wolves found themselves in a 2-0 hole because of it.
“I don’t like blaming refs and pointing the spotlight at the officials, but I just think that it was a horribly officiated game from the start,” he said. “It was so lopsided with incidental neutral zone calls that they went up on the power play twice, and they scored on the power play twice.”
In the second period, Rochester took its lead to 3-0 on a shorthanded goal from Max Harper, who cut in and snuck the puck past the Clarkston goalie’s glove with just over 11 minutes left to play in the period.
Harper, who also tallied the fifth goal of the game for Rochester, noted that with his team finding some early offensive success in Saturday’s game allowed his team to be more relaxed, knowing they had a comfortable lead early in the second period.
“It’s easier, because you don’t have to your defense as much, you can relax,” he said. “It feels good, and we wrapped up the OAA Red.”
About 90 seconds before the second intermission, Rochester added another goal as Kevin Kurzeja picked up a loose puck in the Clarkston end and sent a shot into the back of the net to make it a four goal lead after two periods.
Staskowski noted that his team finds its comfort zone playing on a regular rink, rather than the Olympic sized rink that they played on against Clarkston in the previous matchup, and it helped make a difference on Saturday.
“One of the big things is that on the Olympic sheet (rink) at the Detroit Skate Club, it was the first time that we had played on it, and we had lost some of our defensive assignments” he said. “We’re more comfortable on a regular sheet of ice and we do a good job in our defensive zone and picking guys up. We try to limit teams on shots from the outside and we have two good goalies and we know they’re going to make those saves, and that’s what we did.”
Clarkston finally managed to make its way onto the scoreboard in the closing minutes of Saturday's battle as Adam Johns tallied the lone goal for the Wolves.
Rochester and Stoney Creek split the season series as Rochester picked up a 5-2 win back on November 24th, while Stoney Creek came out with a 3-0 win on January 26th