The high-flying Saline ice hockey team is playing with a target on its back. Opponents know the Hornets are one of the state’s top teams. And so when the puck drops, the Hornets are often facing a team with something to prove – a team looking to prove it can play with the best.
“That means we just have to come out prepared,” said goalie Cam Crawford, who turned aside 25 of 27 shots as Saline defeated Skyline, 3-2, at the Ice Cube Tuesday.
After a series of slow starts to open the season, the Hornets have scored first in two straight games. The game only 15 seconds old when Connor Wright took the pass from Logan Dejanovich and scored to give Saline the early advantage.
The Eagles, who came into the game with a 4-1 record, don’t boast the same level of skill as the Hornets. But they skated hard and Shea O’Brien tied the game midway through the first period.
The first period ended with Saline killing off a five-minute major assessed to co-captain Gordie Niethammer for hitting from behind. Niethammer was also assessed a 10-minute misconduct penalty – which meant Saline would be without one of its fastest skaters for a lengthy period of time.
Crawford and the Hornets ably killed the major penalty. In fact, Saline senior Logan Dejanovich had the best scoring chance on the penalty, but Skyline goalie Tommy Letke stayed with him Dejanovich on a breakaway until Dejanovich ran out of room.
The Hornets seemed to generate momentum from the penalty kill. Though they controlled the play, they weren’t able to capitalize on rebounds or get the goalie moving side -to-side. Skyline continued to play spoiler. With 7:50 left in the period, the Eagles took a 2-1 lead when Noah Bradburn’s shot from the half wall beat Crawford.
The Hornets didn’t tighten up, though. Instead, they kept pressing. With 4:45 to play in the second, they were rewarded. Collin Clark sped down the right wing and fired a shot that was deflected behind the net. He outraced the defensemen to the puck and played it out front, where Mason Ausmus and Mikhail Lozovyy where banging away at it. Ausmus, known for his speed, agility and pretty playmaking from the back end, was rewarded with a “garbage goal.” Saline tied the game at 2.
The Hornets kept coming. And with a minute left in the period, they scored the game-winner. Logan Dejanovich, from the right-wing corner, centered to Brendan Murphy who one-timed a slap shot from inside the left face-off dot. Letke had no chance.
Saline, which struggled with defensive zone turnovers throughout the night, was bailed out by Crawford several times. In the third period, the Hornets turned it over at their blueline while on the powerplay, leading to a Skyline 2-on-1. Crawford slid across to stop the shot and preserve Saline’s one-goal lead.
Saline is 2-0 in the SEC Red and 4-1-1 overall. Saline hosts Bedford at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at the Ice Cube.
The Saline Post 3 Stars
- Cam Crawford – The Saline senior stopped 25 of 27 saves, including several stops on odd-man rushes caused by turnovers. Crawford also attempted to score a goal when Skyline pulled its goalie for the extra attacker.
- Brendan Murphy – Scored the game-winner with a great one-timer – after a perfect pass by Dejanovich.
- Mason Ausmus – Scored the game tying goal and kept Skyline on its does all night with his end-to-end rushes and playmaking.