Ann Arbor — It was a little bit different way to open the season.
There was a pep band and the Fenton/Linden co-op hockey team was hosting the Davison Cardinals in a special venue — the University of Michigan’s Yost Arena. Also, it felt like old times with Matt Krusniak back at the helm of the program, even if the last time he coached an area high school hockey team, it wasn’t a co-op squad.
The Griffins played pretty well for most of the contest. However, Davison used a few odd-man rushes to jump out to a four-goal lead and earn a 4-1 season-opening win against the Fenton/Linden Griffins.
Really, it was the odd-man rushes that defined the contest. When the Cardinals got one, they usually made the Griffins pay. Once the Griffins stopped giving up the puck in precarious positions, the second half of the game was very even with Davison only enjoying a 31-30 shot edge. The Cardinals are typically a strong program in the Flint area. Last season the Griffins lost to Davison 7-2. Two
years ago the Griffins lost 8-2 and 9-1 verditcts to the Cardinals, so Tuesday night’s three-goal loss looked a bit better after comparing the verdict to previous contests.
“I felt the game was closer than the 4-1 score,” Krusniak said. “Davison and Powers are the powerhouses in this area and if we want to play at that level, we have to play them. I’m thankful they give us the games, and we have to take it to that level. I think we have the depth to be able to do it.”
Early in the first period the Cardinals controlled action, taking 14 of the first 17 shots of the session. However, once the Griffins killed off a penalty, they started to get back into the contest, enjoying a 7-2 shot-on-goal edge during the final 7:12 of the period. However, it was on one of those Davison shots that the Cardinals took the lead.
The Griffins lost the puck and it resulted in a 2-on-1 scoring chance for the Cardinals. Jeffrey Schmidt took advantage of the situation, scoring the game’s first goal off an assist by Caleb Manville. Davison led 1-0.
Fenton/Linden outshot Davison in the second period 13-8, but that didn’t keep the Cardinals from taking a four-goal lead. The next goal was provided by Schmidt on another odd-man rush, followed by a goal by Dylan McMullen about two minutes later. Fenton/Linden trailed 3-0 with 12:35 left in the second period.
The lead grew to 4-0 when the Griffins were on the power play. The puck got out of the Davison zone and they were able to pounce on it resulting in a breakaway goal by McMullen off an assist by Schmidt. Fenton trailed 4-0, and Krusniak called a time out.
Whatever Krusniak said must’ve worked. Fenton/Linden’s Brendan Miles won the ensuing face off and passed it to Ethan Hutchings, who scored the Griffins’ first goal of the season.
“I’d like to say I called it,” Krusniak said.
Continued at tctimes.COM
“I’m glad they made me look good. We started to move the puck a little better and they played hard again the rest of the game. It energized them and they took advantage of it.”
The Griffins played a strong second half of the contest, playing the final 24 minutes to no goals.
“I liked that they didn’t give up,” Krusniak said. “Afer we settled down we started to move the puck a little bit better. We started to forecheck a little bit better. Once we started to forecheck and pressure them on the defensive side of the play, they gave it up as well.”
The Griffins had 21 players listed on the roster. Five are senior, including starting goalie Jones who made 27 saves.
Fenton/Linden’s next game will be a challenge as well. The Griffins play Flint Powers at Flint Iceland Arena Wednesday at 6 p.m. They also travel to play Hudsonville on Nov. 29.