It’s a hockey game still being talked about – after all, this is WeLoveAnnArbor.com’s third story on the big game. In case you haven’t heard, Pioneer knocked off rival Skyline 6-2 Monday night to advance to the regional final against Huron on Thursday.
Pioneer came into the game after a strong finish to the regular season and proved that a period isn’t over until it’s over. After surrendering a goal midway through the first period, senior Jack Miling teed up a one-time blast on a pass from Joe Foster to even the score with 15 seconds remaining in the opening period.
Goals like that can deflate a team heading into the locker room and certainly change momentum. And that’s exactly what happened.
As the teams headed off to their locker rooms for the first intermission, Pioneer’s emotions ran high as they looked to capitalize on the late goal.
When play resumed, Pioneer skaters were looking to initiate contact and force the action at both ends of the ice. At the 6:29 mark of the second period, the Pioneer’s aggressive play paid off as they grabbed a 2-1 lead on some crisp puck movement between Nolan Dresch and Gaiden Heatley that left Wyatt Bullinger open for the score.
But it was Miling who again stunned the Eagles with another goal late in the second period. Taking a pass from Bullinger, Miling released a dart that found the back of the net and claimed a 3-1 lead with 39 seconds remaining in the period.
A boisterous Pioneer student section roared their appreciation and the celebration didn’t begin to settle down until well after the Zamboni had completed several laps.
Two goals in the final minute of the first two periods can be devastating. Throw in a goal in the first 10 seconds of the final period – well, there is no coming back from that.
Starting center Jackson Roberts has been a dominant force in the face-off circle for the Pioneers all season, but it was his opening face-off win coupled with a scorching one-timer off a Heatly feed that broke the Eagles back just 10 seconds into the final period.
The Roberts’ goal revved up the Pioneer fan base again as the Pioneer bench exploded in excitement as the sweet prospect of knocking a crosstown rival out of the playoffs seemed that much closer.
When Skyline cut the Pioneer lead to 4-2, the Pioneers responded with a grinding physical style of play that made scoring chances difficult to come by. What scoring chances Skyline did manufacture throughout the rest of the contest were efficiently snuffed out by Pioneer net minder Patrick Newton who was flawless through the final 15 minutes.
Late goals by Bullinger and the hat-trick completion goal from Miling put an exclamation point on the win as the Pioneers knocked out the Eagles and now face the River Rats in another city-rival challenge.