FHNE comes from behind to top FHC hockey in heartbreaking 3-2 loss

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With five minutes to go in Saturday’s rivalry game between the hockey teams from FHNE and FHC, the contest was tied at two goals apiece. After a turnover from FHC, FHNE’s Cameron Cain received the puck near the middle of the ice on a one-on-one with FHC’s [junior] Jack Fitzgibbon, and Cam beat Jack to give him an opportunity to score with the only thing in his way being junior goaltender Gavin Brady. Cameron then scored with a slapshot from ten feet out, making its way past Gavin and giving FHNE the win with a final score of 3-2 in this heated rivalry.

Although the Rangers ultimately fell, they held the shot on goal advantage for the entirety of the game. At the end of the first period, FHC had 14 SOG compared to FHNE’s 4, with most of the four coming in the final two minutes of the period. Gavin made back to back saves toward the end of the period to keep the Rangers from falling behind and despite the action near the net, the two teams went into the locker room tied at 0.

“[The two saves] were really important to keep our team’s momentum going into the next period, because a goal for [FHNE] there would’ve been the worst possible end to the period,” Gavin said.

Around three minutes into the second period, FHNE’s Ludwig Tilly found himself in a one-on-two disadvantage with two advancing FHC defensemen. As he found his way toward the left side of the ice, his teammate Tyler Nickelson raced to the middle, receiving the puck in front of Gavin and backhanding it into the left side of the net. Now at the 13:50 mark, the Bird-Dogs of Northern/Eastern now held a 1-0 lead, despite the Rangers having many more opportunities on net.

After a miscommunication near FHNE’s net and a resulting turnover, junior Xavier Ott capitalized as he put the puck past the FHNE’s Kyler Lowden in net. With the score now tied 1-1 with 6:20 remaining in the second period, the Rangers were dominating possession and creating more chances than the early parts of the period. It appeared the floodgates had opened as freshman Sammy Mielock beat Kyler Lowden to his left from close range, giving the Rangers a 2-1 lead with three minutes to go in the second. 

“[The two goals] were extremely important,” junior Mason Kelly said. “It gave our team a much-needed boost for the end of the period, as well as into the third period,”

In spite of the fact that FHC only led by one at the end of the period, the shots on goal advantage continued to increase. The strong defense of senior Hayden Sarjeant and sophomore Lucas Jeffreys held adamant once again, only giving up three SOG throughout the entire second period. On the other hand, the Rangers now had 26 shots on goal compared to FHNE’s total of seven. These missed opportunities would eventually prove costly as they didn’t come as easy in the final 17 minutes of play.

“We really should have capitalized earlier in the game and put them away,” head coach Kevin Zaschak said.

Without many chances in the first ten minutes of play in the period, neither team scored as seven minutes remained in regulation. Then, with six minutes left, FHNE’s Ryan Almassian found himself in the middle of a swarm of FHC defensemen in the corner near the Rangers’ net. He played the puck off the wall, and it took a very unfortunate bounce as it landed perfectly to Ryan in-stride. He then beat Gavin at his near post, barely squeaking by the FHC goaltender. 

Just a minute later, Cameron Cain made the aforementioned play to secure the win for FHNE, beating Jack and then Gavin right after. The FHC offense didn’t manage to score in the remaining time, despite a flurry of opportunities in the final two minutes as Gavin was pulled from the net. Overall, the Rangers held a 35-13 shot on goal advantage, but they couldn’t capitalize.

Although the Rangers ended up losing, Zaschak still believed it was an impressive all-around performance from FHC, especially from the defense.

“I don’t think we necessarily had a breakdown [in the final six minutes]. We played very well defensively for three periods and only had a couple of penalties, which is great for an emotional rivalry game,” Zaschak said. “Our goal each game is not to worry about who the opponent is, and to take care of what we can control: effort and discipline. We did both of those. If we play that well each night, that is all we can ask for as coaches.”

With this loss, the six-game win streak for the Rangers comes to an end. They are now at 7-4 overall with a 3-1 record in the conference. The boys will have no time to dwell on this tough rivalry loss with another rivalry game next on the docket. This Friday, FHC will play host to Grand Rapids Catholic Central, a team that has secured some huge wins lately, as well as a tie against Flint Powers, one of the best programs in the state. Catholic Central’s Jacob Onstott is one of the better players in the state, but Zaschak says the team will treat this game like any other.

“CC is another rivalry game, and we will approach it the same way, competing for three periods and learning from each game,” Zaschak said. “We play a tough schedule, and our goal is to use these experiences as the season progresses.”