Mason Kelly’s OT game-winner gives hockey 14th win in 15 games with 2-1 win over Grandville

Matthew Mahoney

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With just over three minutes remaining for the Rangers to find a goal in overtime and momentum on their side, the Rangers had the Grandville Bulldogs buried in their own zone. Via senior Ryan Jeffreys, the puck found fellow senior Cole Beaufait on the right side of the ice parallel with the Grandville goaltender. As two Bulldog defensemen raced toward Cole as the puck was switched from one side to the other, this left junior Mason Kelly wide open right in front of the Grandville goalie. Cole squeaked the pass through the defenders, finding Mason who one-timed it past the goalie for the game-ending goal

“[Scoring that goal] felt unbelievable,” Mason said. “Overtimes are always nerve-wracking, and it was just awesome to finish the game right away with the goal.”

This game going to overtime was quite fitting, seeing the majority of the contest was even. In the first period of play, neither team scored, but the Rangers began to dominate offensively toward the tail end of play. While both teams had three shots on goal seven minutes into the game, the Rangers closed out the period with nine more shots compared to Grandville’s two. 

Despite the shot advantage for FHC, the Bulldogs still had plenty of threatening chances near the net. Junior goaltender Gavin Brady made a couple of stellar saves in the first, stopping a powerful Grandville shot from in front of him that he rebounded of his right pad. For Gavin, racking up confidence with a number of good performances in a row has been huge lately.

“Playing well just ups my confidence even more,” Gavin said. “Confidence is huge as a goalie as well because most of it is just a mental game.”

After ending the first period tied 0-0, the Rangers quickly scored to take hold of the lead. Off assists from Cole and Mason, Ryan scored his eighth goal of the season. The trio of Cole, Mason, and Ryan have recorded a combined 98 points so far this season, largely leading the FHC offense so far this season. In both goals Saturday night, these three were the ones involved in the scoring. For head coach Kevin Zaschak, he attributes the three stars’ success to not only their talent but also their hustle and passion for the game. 

“Mason, Ryan, and Cole compete for every puck and win a lot of 50/50 battles,” Zaschak said. “They also see the ice very well and are patient in the offensive zone. Their offensive patience gets opponents running around and out of system, which creates a lot of their scoring chances.”

Following the goal from the Rangers, the Grandville offense began to wake up a bit and place more pressure on the FHC defense. With a total of 12 SOG in the second period, the Bulldogs forced Gavin into 29 saves on the night. Although Grandville was getting some chances, the Ranger defense managed to force them into difficult opportunities. While Cole, Mason, and Ryan may be the ones cumulating the stats, the defense has been a substantial part of the team’s success this year.

“Our overall success comes from everyone buying in defensively,” Zaschak said. “Our defensemen of [senior] Hayden Sarjeant, [sophomore] Lucas Jeffreys, [senior] Grant Cardin, [junior] Jack Fitzgibbon, [sophomore] Josh Smith, [sophomore] Connor DeFouw, and [junior] Collin Ward may not be on the scoresheet each night, but they are a big reason our team is winning games.”

With the score remaining as a 1-0 FHC lead at the end of the second, the Rangers had 17 minutes to close things out. Unfortunately for the Rangers, the Bulldogs equalized before the end of regulation, putting the Rangers into just their second overtime game of the year. In the earlier contest against Big Rapids, Mason scored the game-winning goal in sudden death to send the Rangers home with a win. This time around in overtime, Mason did the exact same thing. As mentioned earlier, Cole found the stick of Mason in front of the net, and he beat the goalie to his left to give FHC the 2-1 win with just over three minutes left to find a goal. Outshooting the Bulldogs 6-2 in overtime, the Rangers had a bunch of chances that just weren’t able to find the back of the net until Mason’s game-winner. 

With a final score of 2-1, the story of Saturday’s game was defense. In six games of FHC’s eight-game winning streak, the boys have given up two goals or less. On the season, the team has only given up 37 goals, averaging out to less than two goals a game. Zaschak attributes this to the mindset of the players, while also acknowledging the time and effort the Rangers spend on improving the defense.

“We work on defensive schemes each practice with a lot of small area game battles and different defensive drills that fall within our system,” Zaschak said. “We also pride ourselves on consistently being in position and all over the ice on the defensive side of the puck, which helps us not get outnumbered in neutral and defensive zones. Defense is also a battle of wills, and our team takes pride in [each guy] winning their battles.”

Thanks to the combined efforts on both sides of the ice, the Rangers now sit at 15-4 on the season. On an eight-game win streak while winning 14 of 15 games, the boys will face some difficult competition this weekend as they try to keep the streak alive. Traveling to Trenton, the Rangers will participate in the MIHL Prep Showcase against Flint Powers and Orchard Lake St. Mary’s, some of the most prominent programs in the state. While the team is going to win, Zaschak is also just looking forward to the experience.

“We have two big games this weekend against Flint Powers and Orchard Lake St. Mary’s. OLSM is ranked sixth in division one, and Flint Powers is a top program every year in division three,” Zaschak said. “It’s an honor for our program to get an invite to the showcase each year, and we look forward to competing against top teams in the state.”