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KLAA foes, Stevenson and Salem, skate to 1-1 tie

Hockey   | Ben Szilagy

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Livonia - The first game back from the holiday break can be tricky. It can be even trickier when both teams are evenly matched.

That was the case on Wednesday between host Livonia Stevenson and Salem, teams that played to a 1-1 tie in their first game of 2015.

“You’re never happy with a tie,” Salem coach Ryan Ossenmacher said. “As we went through the line after the game, I told Dave (Mitchell) we need to get this changed around in our league. We don’t our kids any favors the way it’s set up. Theoretically we could go a hold season without playing a single overtime before the state tournament.

“Win, lose or draw you want to play for keeps. “ 

Salem (6-3-2) took advantage of early penalties from Stevenson to get on the board first with 11:54 left in the first period with its power play unit.

 After receiving a pass from sophomore forward Matt Schumbuger, senior forward Noah Willar offered a shot from the slot that was turned away. As the puck ricochet off the goaltender’s pads, Willar got the rebound and buried his ninth goal of the season for a 1-0 lead.

Stevenson coach Dave Mitchell said after the game that his team had to shake off the rust, which led early penalties in the first period, and find a way to energize his squad.

“Our message was just simply ‘clean it up,’” he said. 

“This was our first game since Dec. 20, and we knew that there was going to be rust. We needed our guys to find their legs, and just get after it in the second period.  

“We needed something to energize us there because our guys work so hard. When the puck’s not going in, all you can do is work harder. You can’t get down, and you can’t stop. We had to start finishing (around the net).”

Stevenson (5-4-2) would tie the game late in the second period on a short-handed goal.

Senior Alex Hunt took control of the puck in the neutral zone and walked up the far side of the ice, creating a two-on-one. Hunt offered a one-time pass to senior forward Michael Sinclair who rifled the game tying, 1-1, goal with thirteen seconds left in the period.

“(Sinclair) is a smart, smart hockey player. He’s our captain and a leader and he optimizes what a hockey player truly is,” Mitchell said.

Sinclair and the Spartans had more opportunities in the second period when the Spartan’s peppered Salem goaltender Dillon Phillips who turn away point blank shots, and kept the game close.

Phillips stopped 25 shots and Stevenson senior goalie Andrew Rozenbaum had 31 saves.

(Dillon) has been solid, and he’s been getting better as the year has gone on. He’s our number one, so it’s not surprising when he plays like he did tonight. He always gives our team a chance to win. I’m happy with how he played tonight,” Ossenmacher said.

The Kensington Lakes Activities Association currently has a rule in place that teams cannot play an overtime period. Both coaches said that they’d like the rule changed because it creates a disadvantage when the state tournament begins.

During the state tournament games are decided by a sudden death overtime format.

“I think every coach would love to play an overtime period in our league because it prepares you for the state tournament. Right now our league rules says we can’t, so we have to abide by it,” Mitchell said.

Despite the tie, Mitchell said he was pleased with the progress of his Spartans because he’s a believer in the process.

“We had chances,” he said. “A lot of things we worked on during Christmas break, we saw out on the ice tonight. Even though we’re judged by outcomes, I’m a process guy. It’s hard to be overly disappointed with how we got better, and how we kept getting chances.

“Pucks will go in. We just got to stick to our process.”

Ossenmacher, on the other hand, said his team had to get better and force teams to make mistakes.

“We have to get after the puck. We can’t wait for mistakes to happen, you have to force mistakes. We have a tendency to wait around for a mistake to happen, and a team like Stevenson isn’t going to make those mistakes,” he said.

“We need to create more urgency.”

On Saturday Stevenson plays at Plymouth and Salem hosts Livonia Churchill in league play.