The game didn’t start well for the Portage Central Mustangs. Even though they had the first hit of the game and the first shots of the game, the Southwest Michigan Blades were able to withstand the early pressure and counter to score the first goal just 3 minutes into the game on a harmless redirection. The Blades were trying to drive with the puck to the PC net, but the Mustang defense was too strong and angled them away. The Blades player threw a pass into the crease, hoping to connect with a teammate, but there were none nearby, but the puck hit the toe of a PC defenseman and slowly slid just inside the far post for the first goal for the Blades.
The Blades scored again 75 seconds later when Portage Central tried to make a cross-ice pass in the defensive zone. Unfortunately, a Blades players stepped into the zone, cut the pass off then stepped into a slapshot and blew it by PC goaltender Bryan Gracey to give the Blades a 2-0 lead.
Despite the goals against them, the Mustangs kept skating and shooting. They were generating odd-many rushes and scoring chances, but were not able to capitalize on the opportunities. At least not until they went on the Powerplay.
The Mustangs scored their first goal of the game as the powerplay was winding down. Sproule and Jaros were working the puck into the zone when it was knocked loose by the Blades. Luckily, Hunter Maschke stormed into the offensive zone with speed at just the right time. He was able to pick up the puck and then blast it past the Blades goalie from the top of the circle and put PC on the board.
The Blades responded a little over a minute later with a third goal. A shot from the point was knocked down in a group of players battling in front of the net. A Blades player found the puck and pulled it our of the pile, then shot it into the back side of the net. The Mustangs finished the period outshooting the Blades 11 -7, but trailing on the scoreboard 1 -3.
The second period started well for the Mustangs with pressure on the Blades in their zone. But that would not last as the Blades capitalized on a failed attempt to keep the puck in the offensive zone and executed a successful 2 on 1 to take a 4-1 lead.
The fourth goal gave the Blades momentum for much of the second period and they kept firing pucks on Gracey, but he was able to turn them all away. Eventually the Mustangs got their feet back under them and they started playing a more physical game with an aggressive forecheck. That forecheck eventually forced a turnover which Canyon Morse collected and lasered the puck past the goalie to grab momentum and start the PC rally.
The Mustangs scored again, just 40 seconds later, when a shot went wide of the net, bounced off the lively end boards and rolled back to the side of the net. Ryan Jaros was there to tuck the puck behind the goaltender and into the net, bringing the Mustangs within one goal at 3-4. The Mustangs would continue to push, but were not able to score the equalizer before the end of the second period. The Blades outshot the Mustangs in the second period 15-12, but the Mustangs had all of the momentum on their side at the end of the second.
The third period featured back and forth action with scoring chances, big hits, and a number of penalties. None of which lead to goals for either side. It wasn’t until the end, when Portage Central pulled the goalie for an extra attacker that the Blades were able to score on the empty net to put the game out of reach with 20 seconds left.
PC goaltender Bryan Gracey finished the game with 21 saves on 25 shots. The Mustangs were able to fire 29 shots on the Blades goaltender.
With the win, the Blades move to 7-0 in league play and first place while the Mustangs fall to 6-3 in the league, good for second place.
Upcoming Portage Central Games:
Friday, February 8 – PC at Riverview HS in Trenton, MI at 7:15pm
Saturday, February 9 – PC at Grand Rapids West Catholic at 3:30 pm
NOTE: This time has been moved to earlier in the day.