The sixth-ranked Huron River Rats downed seventh-ranked Pioneer 5-3 on Saturday to wrap up a successful 3-1 weekend at their final regular season tournament in Rockford.
Opening the weekend with a 6-4 win vs fourth-ranked Okemos, they then dropped a close one 5-4 to third-ranked Rockford and walked away with a 13-6 victory against East Kentwood.
The familiar crosstown rivals, slated to meet again next Saturday if all goes well for both teams in the opening round of the District championship tournament, met Saturday afternoon with tears streaming down their faces, unable to see much as the chlorine level made everything a little painful. Despite this, or perhaps because of this, the game turned out to be a familiar defensive slugfest that was close throughout.
Huron junior Sophie Flott opened up scoring in the game 2 minutes into the first period, floating an offspeed and perfectly placed shot past a surprised Emma Packard – daughter of multiple state title winner former Pioneer coach Don Packard – in goal for Pioneer.
This was quickly answered by Pioneer senior Callie Woodside, making the drop defense, busy trying to contain Pioneer standout senior Brianna Coury, pay by burying a cross-cage shot from the 5 position with 2:50 to play. Senior captain Christina Pappas quickly added to Pioneer’s tally with a goal on their next possession, this one a long-distance zinger from up top.
Huron gave the ball to trusted workhorse Emily Marsh in the second quarter and let her go to work. Displaying a series of powerful outside shots, turns and an authoritative 5m penalty shot, the senior netted three goals in the period to bring the Rats up 4-2.
Halftime came, and Pioneer coach Will Hart fiddled with his offense just enough to squeeze out another goal for the Pioneers, this one a tally from the 1-2 side as time expired on an exclusion call. Both teams, struggling to lift the leaden weights that were their arms at this point, relied upon brilliant goalie play to stop long-range shots and kick start the offense with outlet passes – Rat netminder Claire DenHouter pacing her teammates with appeals to wing out and drive after shot stopped shots.
Neither team was able to get much going in the 4th quarter, despite several time outs and one interesting timeout play by the Pioneers. Bunching together near 5m, they formed a wall and prevented any Rat defenders from challenging Marbyeth Melcher’s shot that hit the right post.
Fortunately, the Rats capitalized on the Pioneers unorthodox offensive alignment, with sneaky senior Kirby Gardner slipping down pool to receive a pass from DenHouter and seal the win with a smart lob over top of a challenging Packard in net with 8 seconds remaining.
The final score of 5-3 drove the Rats season record to 15-6. Scoring for the weekend was lead by Marsh with 11, followed by Kingma (5), Frazier (4), Clyde (3), Gardner (2) Flott (2) and Baker (2). DenHouter and the defense allowed a stingy 18 goals against for the weekend against top competition. Freshman Anna Leone also cheerfully pulled out an impressive weekend, playing hard for extended time on Saturday.