HOCKEY: Saline Defeats Rival Pioneer, Advances to Regional Final

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TRENTON -- Griffin Clark scored 2 goals and had an assist and Joe Raupp scored a goal and had two assists as Saline defeated Pioneer, 4-2,  in the regional semifinal at Kennedy Ice Arena in Trenton Saturday.

Saline advances to the regional championship game against Trenton Wednesday at Kennedy Ice Arena. The face-off is set for 7:30 p.m.

Coach Kyle Zagata said his Hornets handled all the adversity they faced Saturday.

"The way our guys handled adversity, we weathered it, our penalty kill was outstanding and then we were able to capitalize when we had our chances," Zagata said.

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Saturday's tilt between Saline and their SEC Red rival was the third of the season. On opening night, the teams tied 3-3. On Jan. 5, Saline lost a heartbreaker, 5-4.  The Hornets scored two third-period powerplay goals to break a 1-1 tie.

The game was tied at one to start the third period and Pioneer had nearly a full five-minute major powerplay to work with.  Given the way Pioneer goalie Elliot Davis, who'd stolen that tie and victory in the previous games, was playing, the outlook for the Hornets was starting to look sketchy.

But the Hornet penalty killers, who'd nullified a 5-on-3 powerplay to start the second period, were up to the task again to start the third period. Most of the penalty had expired when Pioneer's Eli Jackel clotheslined Griffin Clark at center-ice. '

Zagata said the Hornet penalty kill had been a work-in-progress all year.

"We had a group of four guys that we really relied on and they played outstanding out there," Zagata said. "I was really proud of him. Games like that, when you're outshooting your opponent, it's often tough for a goaltender. He weathered the storm. He stood tall."

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Among the best penalty killers was Schroeder, who stopped 14 of 15 shots.

"Tyler - he's a battler, too. When he's battling like that, he's a heck of a goaltender," Zagata said.

Jackel was assessed a five-minute major for charging.

The Saline powerplay made the Pioneers pay for the transgression.

First, after great work on the forecheck by Andrew Updike and Joe Raupp, Raupp passed to Mateo Iadipaolo, who beamed a wristshot up and cover the fallen Davis for what proved to be the game-winning goal.

"We put the guys in the right spot and you hope they make the play and that's what they did. We were desperate to find pucks. Nobody was standing around. We wanted to get those second and third chances and that's what we did there," Zagata said.

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On the same powerplay the Hornets were swarming. Aidan Granica made a great play to keep the puck in the zone and Raupp found the open Clark, who skated in and, from a tough angle, beat Davis with a snipe over the shoulder. Saline led 3-1.

"He's a born shooter. He knows how to shoot a puck and has a great shot," Zagata said.

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Clark scored another goal that was waved off due to goalie interference before he scored an empty-net goal to seal the victory.

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Saline outshot Pioneer 15-4 in the first period but couldn't beat Davis. Pioneer tilted the ice toward the Hornets net in the second period, outshooting Saline, 8-4. Saline began the second period with two players in the penalty box. The Saline penalty killers allowed just a single shot during the 5-on-3. With 6:09 to play in the second period, Raupp drew first blood. Updike and Raupp sped up the ice, crisscrossing and passing to teach other. Updike, on the left wing, fired a low shot-pass that Raupp, speeding up the middle, deflected through Davis's pads.

Zagata said the team had been working in practice on driving the middle lane.

"(Raupp) was the middle lane guy. He went right to the net. It was a good, low puck from Updike and Joe does what Joe does," Zagata said. "He gets good dirty goals."

Pioneer got the goal back with 1:19 to play in the second period on a screen shot goal from the point by Thomas Kreske.

Saline now faces Trenton, who beat Woodhaven, 9-1, Saturday. It's been a great season for the Hornets, who are the underdogs in the regional final, and they've got a shot for another accolade.

"We had a few goals this year. We wanted to win our conference, and we're sitting on top of the standings. We wanted to win Ann Arbor - which I think we've done. We wanted to compete in the regional," Zagata said. "You never know what can happen. We want to go compete - go play the right way, to do the things we work on in practice, and let's just see what happens."

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POSTGAME INTERVIEWS

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