BROOKLYN, Ohio – Rocky River turned back the Midview Middies, 8-2, in Thursday evening’s Baron Cup quarterfinal at the John M. Coyne Recreation Center.
Rocky River (19-10) scored the first two goals of the game, allowed a Midview marker in the second which was quickly countered, and then traded one goal for five in a wild third period. Senior captain Ted Stueber notched a hat trick in what marked a fifth straight win for the Pirates.
A staunch Pirate defense stifled a Midview offense which had cranked out 20 goals over its previous five games.
River struck first – at 3:51 of the first, when a Tommy Kelly blue-line shot required a goaltender stop and resulted in a traffic jam seeking a rebound in front of the Midview net. Winger Nolan Weaver chipped away at the puck and then Luke Witzigreuter got a clean piece of the puck, shuttling it past the Middie netminder for his 10th of the season.
A late-first powerplay goal lifted the Pirates to a 2-0 lead. Noah Hess scored that one with a mere four seconds remaining in the period.
River’s 2-0 lead was cut in half midway through the second when Midview (9-8-3) wrested away the momentum of the contest and netted a goal on a put-back of a Dunning blocker save from close range. The ensuing rebound skittered across the crease and found the waiting stick of Midview’s Nick Verlotti.
That goal came at 5:18, and Rocky River would waste no time in coming up with a response. At 4:22, defensemen Tommy Kelly and Frankie Lord moved the puck up ice and found Ted Stueber all alone, picking up speed and racing toward the Middie net. At the left circle, Stueber let a big wrister fly, and the puck whizzed past the glove of Midview’s Zach Seel.
The rest of the second was a scoreless exchange, and the Pirates went into intermission No. 2 with a 3-1 lead. Kelly and Lord were solid at the other end of the ice in the second, diffusing numerous Midview opportunities with takeaways and blocked shots.
In the third, it was a mid-ice, bone-crunching body check by erstwhile defenseman – and current winger – Eddie Zuercher that helped set up a goal that pushed the Pirate advantage to three. Zuercher’s hit led to a Pirate possession that netted Stueber’s second goal of the contest, a netfinder assisted by brother Matt and fellow senior Ben Brej.
The Stueber brothers would be followed into the net six minutes later by the Asmar boys. That goal – scored by Spencer Asmar courtesy a pass from brother Danny – came at 4:53.
The Pirates and Middies then exchanged goals in the 43rd minute of the contest. Stueber closed out his hat trick on a Hess assist at 2:46.
River’s seventh and eighth goals were scored against a gassed Middie group. Zuercher scored his fourth of the season at 1:30; Nolan Weaver tallied the Pirates’ seventh short-handed goal of the season at the 26-second mark.
For the game, the Pirates outshot the Middies, 46-18. Over its five straight victories, Rocky River has averaged 41 shots per game.
“We did have a lot of shots, but we could do a better job of capitalizing early,” said Head Coach Chris Cogan.
River went 1-for-2 on the powerplay and 2-for-2 in killing a pair of man advantages. The Pirates are 10-of-their-last-28 (35.7 percent) on their last 28 powerplays.
Joining Ted Stueber with multiple points on Thursday were Ben Brej (two assists), Nolan Weaver (goal, assist), Tommy Kelly (two assists), Matt Stueber (two assists) and Eddie Zuercher (goal, assist).
With Thursday’s victory, Rocky River now advances to the Baron Cup semifinals. River will take on the winner of Strongsville-Mentor on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. (The Strongsville-Mentor game is being contested Thursday at the time of this writing.)
CANNON FIRE …
A-OK AT THE JMC: Rocky River has thrived at the John M. Coyne Recreation Center, the site of not only the Baron Cup but of Ohio Tournament district games later this month. Since 2012, the Pirates are now 22-8 at the facility, averaging over five goals per game while yielding less then two. … The John M. Coyne Recreation Center will be the site of Cleveland-area-west brackets in the district tournament which will be held Feb. 12-March 3 as one of four district sites in the Buckeye State. Rocky River has been tabbed as the No. 4 seed in that 23-team bracket. The Pirates will open district play on Feb. 17 (5 p.m.) in a contest against the Feb. 13 winner of Padua-North Olmsted.
TEDDY POINT-STREAK: Ted Stueber has now tallied a point or more in 10 straight games and in 20 of Rocky River’s last 21 games. The senior center has scored 14 goals while posting five assists over the streak. Stueber has scored a team-high 33 goals this season.
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