HOCKEY: Despite Loss, Saline Happy With Opening Night Game at Plymouth
PLYMOUTH - Saline's varsity hockey team didn't look so hot in their pre-season scrimmage against Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard. When the season opened Friday at Plymouth, the Hornets were without offensive leaders Mateo Iadipaolo and Blake Woodrel, and Ethan Phelps, the only Hornet to score in the scrimmage. So it would have been easy to write off the Hornets.
Instead, Saline battled Plymouth until the final buzzer, falling 2-1.
"Honestly, I'm so proud of this group. We were shorthanded with injuries and had a few key guys out for different reasons. We just said 'Next man up.' Everyone's going to play a certain role and play a certain way. We've got to work and battle and do little things right," Saline coach Kyle Zagata said. "It took us a minute to get up to that, but we worked and battled every single shift and there was no negativity on the bench. We learned some things about this group."
Plymouth scored less than two minutes into the game. Saline goalie Tyler Schroeder was sliding to his right to stop a shot by Ian Timberlake when the shot was deflected and slid to the left of the helpless goalie.
Nearly midway through the period, the Hornets answered on the powerplay. From behind the net, Aidan Rumohr backhanded a pass through the crease and back to the right point where sophomore defenseman jumped in and rifled a shot on goal. Rumohr, one of the captains, got to the net at the same time as the puck and chipped it in.
"Andrew Winters shot it on net. The puck was laying on the goalie's pads and I just tapped it in for the easy goal. It was a great shot by the kid - an incoming sophomore," Rumohr said.
Rumohr likes mucking it up in front of the net.
"It's always been part of my game. I would not call myself a natural goal scorer. I'm a netfront guy who likes to bury the dirty goals," Rumohr said.
Zagata said the Hornets haven't spent much time on the powerplay so early in the year. But Zagata said that kind of goal will be the identity of the team this year with so many young players joining the lineup.
"Andrew Winters got a quick shot off. He didn't fool around with the puck. It was a good shot, at the net, low and through traffic and then we found a rebound," Zagata said. "That's kind of the identity of our team. Those are going to the goals that we have to get."
Saline finished the first period on the penalty kill after Chris Thornell took a major penalty for boarding. The second period began with the Hornets still shorthanded.
Saline killed off the major in large part due to the play of goalie Tyler Schroeder, who stopped 39 of 41 shots.
"He was amazing. He's a third-year starter for us. He's one of the most experienced goalies in the state. And he just battles," Zagata said. "He came into the game. He was ready. I could tell he was locked in."
Saline's defense has one senior, Owen Warner, a junior, Chris Thornell, and four sophomores. As a whole, the blueline looked much better defensively and better in transition than it did in the scrimmage.
Once the Hornets killed the major, they started tilting the ice toward the Plymouth and had several dangerous cycles in the Wildcat zone. At one point a heavy Hornet shot deflected up and came down on the crossbar of the Plymouth goal.
Unfortunately, the Hornets were assessed a minor penalty midway through the period and Matt LeClair scored at 8:39 to give the Wildcats a 2-1 lead.
Saline had three powerplays after that goal but failed to click.
The three Hornets away on their senior capstone trip likely would have helped the powerplay. But the Hornets like Schroeder seemed to relish the chance to try and win without some of their best players.
"I felt great out there. We went into this game knowing our backs were against the wall. I knew there was nothing else I could do but fight and battle and that's what we all did," Schroeder said. "I think we started the season right, even though it was a loss. I'm so proud of this group. We're young. We lost a lot of seniors last season, but I like the direction this team is headed.
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