Hockey splits crucial weekend games

Jeremy Juhasz

The Kent State hockey team split its weekend two-game set with Michigan-Dearborn on the weekend, falling 6-0 on Friday but bouncing back Saturday to win 2-1 in a shootout.

“We expected to get both this weekend, so it’s unfortunate that we only got one,” said senior goalie Ryan Gregory.

The league match-up was crucial after the third American Collegiate Hockey Association rankings were released over the weekend. Kent State was the biggest mover in the top-25, climbing to 15th in the country. Michigan-Dearborn was slotted 13th.

The Wolves left Kent State with six points, four for Saturday’s win and two for forcing overtime.

Since the games were league contests and the teams only play each other twice this season, both games were worth four points instead of two.

“The points are important, but the other reality is that our conference is set up really similar to NCAA football where the rankings are really what we want,” Kent State coach Jarret Whidden said. “It would have been nice to get the eight points.”

Kent State struck early Saturday when freshman forward Matt Grandinetti gathered a rebound in front of the net just 29 seconds into the first period.

“It feels good to contribute to the team,” Grandinetti said. “It’s what we want to do is get out grinders to score goals.”

The score remained 1-0 until Michigan-Dearborn’s Steve Popp streaked down the right wing and slid the puck underneath Gregory’s stacked pads. The goal came after an aggressive Kent State forecheck in the offensive zone.

“I think we outplayed them,” Whidden said. “We’re really trying to focus on getting the puck in the zone and cycling and keeping our feet moving.”

The Michigan-Dearborn equalizer also came after two disallowed Kent State goals.

“It’s really the refs discretion,” Whidden said. “The first one, he (the referee) said the net came off. The second one he said that the puck didn’t initially go in, and then the momentum of my player carried the goalie into the net.”

In overtime, Kent State held a 4-on-3 power play but was unable to find the back of the net, sending the game into a shootout.

Popp shot first for the Wolves and missed. Junior forward Mike Lepre followed suit and missed as well.

Gregory on the next shooter poke-checked Michigan-Dearborn’s Kyle Papke, leaving the Flashes a chance to go ahead.

“I knew the ice there was pretty choppy near the end,” Gregory said. “So if they were going to score they were going to shoot it. He (the shooter) had his hands in front of him, so that means he’s going to deke. I figured if I poke check, it’s going to rush him.”

Senior forward Dave Bruder picked up the puck from center ice with a plan.

“(As) I was coming down, I was trying to look low blocker to see if it was open,” he said, “but as soon as I looked low blocker, he moved his glove a little bit and I just went high glove.”

Bruder said he watched Lepre shoot and noticed the goalie sitting deeper in his crease, opening up larger targets.

He snapped the wrister top-shelf.

A Gregory save against Michael Macari, the Wolves’ leading scorer, sealed the win.

“It was good for us to rebound after that game (from Friday),” Bruder said. “I think we came out here and just played our game.”

Friday’s game was tight through 40 minutes, but back-to-back goals in the third period unraveled the Flashes.

Michigan-Dearborn scored all six goals in the third period, including an empty net fifth goal as Kent State attempted to get on the scoreboard.

On the weekend as a whole though, Bruder said there were points the club let slip away, and the team was somewhat disappointed how they were beat at home.

“It’s still kind of a let down, getting beat in your own home barn,” Bruder said. “I don’t want get beat at home, none of us like getting beat here.”

Contact sports correspondent Jeremy Juhasz at [email protected].