Hockey ties GR Christian in regular-season finale on Senior Night

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Hockey ties GR Christian in regular-season finale on Senior Night

Senior forward Cole Ott, playing in what could be the last home game of his career, took over the game offensively for the Rangers. Cole took full advantage of his extra time on the ice for Senior Night, burying the puck past the goalie late in the third period off an assist from junior Hayden Sarjeant. The goal tied the game 3-3, completing the comeback from the 3-1 deficit against the Grand Rapids Christian Eagles.

“[Scoring] felt amazing, especially as a senior on Senior Night,” Cole said. “It made it even better that it was the game-tying goal.”

Before the comeback, the Eagles started off with a dominating and devastating attack in the first and second periods. Even though the FHC defense surrendered only 18 shots on goal throughout the game, the chances were clear and very threatening. Early in the first period, Christian went up to a 1-0 lead off of a close wrist shot. The Ranger defense stayed resilient for the remaining part of the period, not allowing any more goals in the first period. Just before the period ended, junior Cole Beaufait, the season leader in goals on the team with 37, came up big again for the Rangers, knocking the puck past the right side of the goalie off an assist from sophomore Jacob Campbell.

In the second period, things started to go downhill for FHC. GRC scored 2 goals in the second period, scoring on 3 out of the first 11 shots in the game. The Rangers didn’t have much going offensively and struggled to string together threatening offensive attacks. With the struggling offense, FHC committed men forward, therefore exposing themselves to the break in the event that the Eagles stole the puck in threatening territory. GRC did just that, scoring 2 goals off of Ranger turnovers.

After going down 3-1 during the second period, the Ranger offense needed to pick up the pace in the third period. Dealing with injuries, penalties, and other issues, FHC was forced into some difficult positions defensively with its personnel. Sophomore Mason Kelly, usually a forward scoring goals for the Rangers, was playing defense in the third period. He did his job well, letting up only 8 shots on goal in the third period.

“It felt very good knowing that I could still help my team while playing a position I don’t normally play,” Mason said.

While Mason did his job defensively, his offensive counterparts on FHC did their part too. Scoring off a shot not far behind the face-off circle, junior Hayden Sarjeant started off the scoring with a shot beating the goalie wide and into the back of the net via an assist from Cole Beaufait. With 6:13 left in the game, Cole Ott’s aforementioned game-tying goal created a deadlock. With Mason staying strong defensively, FHC continued to hold off the Eagles and forced overtime.

Overtime presented a lot of challenges for the Rangers. Without its three best defensemen, the tattered defense was a man down for the majority of overtime due to penalties. Offensive chances were few and rare, while the Eagles were on the power play and in FHC territory most of the period. However, the Rangers managed to hold on to the 3-3 tie, a successful result given the circumstances and the comeback.

“The last defensive stand [was huge],” head coach Kevin Zaschak said. “Also, battling through injuries, penalties, and other challenges to come back from 3-1 down to force overtime was a testament to the never-quit attitude this program and our players have.”

With Thursday’s tie, the Rangers finish their regular season with a 16-5-2 record and 6-3-1 in conference play. FHC holds a 3-point lead atop of the conference standings with 14 points; however, the other teams in contention for the conference title have at least two more games to play.

The next game for the Rangers is not for two weeks when the MHSAA playoffs begin. Having finished its season already, the team has some time off where it will not want to lose form. For Coach Zaschak, he has a plan to keep his players in shape.

“We will have some up-tempo practices next week,” Zaschak said. “We need the guys to stay sharp and prepared [in order] to perform well in playoffs.”

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