Hockey: Saline Defeats Pioneer in Annual Thanksgiving Eve Rivalry Game

Local News Needs Your Support

Donation Options

 11/23/2017 - 01:56
Brendan Murphy puts the finishing touch on his highlight-reel, coast-to-coast goal that put Saline up a little more than a minute into the game.

Brendan Murphy scored two gaols and assisted on another as Saline defeated Pioneer, 5-3, in the annual Thanksgiving Eve contest between the hockey rivals.

Murphy went coast-to-coast and skated through the entire Pioneer team before deking the goalie and depositing the puck in the net to give the Hornets a 1-0 lead just 1:06 into the game.  Saline built a 5-0 lead before allowing three goals in the game’s final seven minutes.

“It’s a great night for hockey. You’ve got all the alumni out for a skate before the game and so many people watching. The pep band was playing.  You’ve got two rivals and you never know what will happen when rivals play,” Saline coach Paul Fassbender said.


Despite the festivities surrounding the annual game and the eventual victory, Fassbender had a hard time ignoring the way the Hornets let the Pioneers back in the game.

“Sometimes we started trying to do too much individually and we turned the puck over and it cost us,” Fassbender said. “We let them make this game interesting. We can’t let teams back into games like this.”

Tom Raupp was assessed a five-minute major for boarding with 9:30 to play. Pioneer scored twice on the penalty. Then the Pioneers scored again with 1:34 to play, to make it 5-3.  10 seconds later Ben Wild was penalized for tripping. The Pioneers pulled their goalie for a 6-on-4 advantage, but the Hornets held them off.

Saline went to the attack right away. The line of Alex Dejanovich, Alex Birkle and Gordi Niethammer swarmed the Pioneers, firing three good shots on goal before drawing a tripping call 45 seconds into the game. That set up Saline’s first goal by Murphy, who started the play behind the Saline goal.

Murphy described his goal.

“I was about to turn the puck up the ice and look for a pass. I had a couple guys on me, so I turned back around our net, got my feet moving and looked to go up the ice. No one was anywhere near me so I started going, made a couple moves, got around the guys and just made a quick little move at the end and got right around him (the goalie). It felt really good,” Murphy said.

Murphy said it was about as far as he’s ever skated for a goal.

“End-to-end. Too tiring. I don’t like it,” Murphy said with a smile. “Come on, now.”

Pioneer continued to harass the Hornets, physically. On one play, the Hornets iced the puck. The Hornet won the race for the puck, but the whistle blew because of the automatic icing. The Pioneer player hit the player from behinds into boards – not very hard, but enough to generate boos in the crowd. The Hornet shoved him back and the Pioneer responded with a punch. He was penalized two minutes for roughing. A few moments later, another Pioneer player rammed Mikhail Lozovyy from behind, face-first into the boards. Lozovyy was down on the ice for several minutes and was helped off the ice. There was no call.

Pioneer continued its surprising physical attack on the Hornets. But the Hornets seemed to put an end to the shenanigans when they scored with 4:31 left to play in the period. A Pioneer player had at Hornet hard in front of the penalty box, felling the Hornet to the delight of the Pioneer bench. But while the Pioneer bench celebrated, Zach Harrison grabbed the loose pick and started into the zone. He tried to center the puck to a winger. Pioneer’s goalie seemed to anticipate the pass, but somehow, the puck squirted past him. The goal quieted the Pioneer bench and seemed to put a stop to their heavy hitting.

In the second period, the Hornets added to their lead. William Wynn, a junior defenseman, scored his first ever goal for the Hornet, firing a point shot on the powerplay.  Raupp drew the assist.

In the third, Saline wasted little time getting on the scoreboard. Murphy jumped into the play again, skating up the left wing and then beating his man around the edge to get a quality scoring chance that left a juicy rebound. Gordie Niethammer pounced on the loose puck and lifted a backhand past the down-and-out goalie for a 4-0 lead just 42 seconds into the period.

Murphy made it 5-0 halfway through the period. Aidan Arbaugh and Yanic Sadek won a board battle and got the puck back to the blueline where Murphy fired a slapshot past the goalie.

It looked like Saline was going into Thanksgiving with romp over their rivals. But Pioneer made it interesting. Gaiden Heatley scored the natural hat trick, getting the first two on the five-minute major to Raupp.

While coach Fassbender wasn’t completely happy with the team’s uneven effort, the team was happy to get a victory in the traditional rivalry game before the holiday weekend.

“It feels really good. We always look forward to this game. We’ve got all the alumni coming back and everyone in the stands coming to watch us,” Murphy said. “We always want to play our hardest because they’re our rivals. It felt amazing to get the win.”

The Saline Post’s 3 Stars

  1. Brendan Murphy – Murphy scored two goals and set up another. For a guy who plays tight end in football, he’s super quick and agile on his skates and he loves jumping into the play. He can play that rover position, or he can blast slap shots from the point or bury heavy wrist shots from the slot. And as several Pioneer players learned, he hits like a truck. One part Erik Karlsson, one part Shea Weber, one part Dustin Byfuglien.
  2. William Wynn – Another defenseman who had a big night. Wynn scored his first goal as a Hornet with a point shot on the powerplay. He also delivered a hard hit on a Pioneer forward who made the mistake of trying to dangle past him.
  3. Gordie Niethammer – The speedy forward scored a goal, helped swarm the Pioneer net all night and used his speed on the forecheck and backcheck with equal measure. He also rung another shot off the post.
Tran Longmoore's picture
Tran Longmoore
Tran Longmoore is a veteran community journalist. He is founder and owner of He is co-publisher of The Saline Post weekly newspaper. Email him at [email protected] or call him at 734-272-6294.

Follow the author on         or visit   Personal Blog