BROOKLYN, Ohio – Rocky River defeated Strongsville, 4-2, on Saturday night to advance to the championship game of the 48th annual Baron Cup. A big second period vaulted the Pirates to victory on a night where four different RR skaters found the back of the net.
The victory marks River’s sixth in a row and it sent the Mustangs (23-7-3) to their first loss in 10 games (since Jan. 20). Rocky River – the tournament’s No. 2 seed – now advances to face No. 1-seed Shaker Heights in Sunday’s title game.
Rocky River (20-10) got a solid performance from its defensive corps in holding Strongsville to 22 shots on goal while having to kill four penalties. The Pirates – who had 50 shots on Saturday — have now outshot their opponent in seven straight games and by an average of 24 shots over that stretch.
River was rock-solid on the forecheck early in the contest, pounding the Mustangs into failed clears and turnovers some 125 feet in front of Pirate netminder Ryan Dunning. Dunning’s opposite – Zach Maxwell — came up with a big pad save at the 8:10-mark in what may have been the best scoring chance for either side in the opening period, a wide open River shot from the high slot.
The Pirates killed off an elbowing penalty mid-first, and Nolan Weaver punctuated that kill with an exclamation mark moments after the Mustang powerplay ended with his 12th goal of the season.
River outshot Strongsville, 14-7, and went into the first intermission with a 1-0 lead.
The second period was all-River. Outshooting the Mustangs, 24-7, the Pirates outscored Strongsville, 3-1, in the second. River goals were scored by Aidan Dempsey, Ted Stueber and Luke Witzigreuter. Only a big period turned in by Maxwell kept the game from being completely out of hand heading into the third.
The Mustangs cut the River advantage to two with a powerplay goal in the first minute of the third. For the game, the Pirates would go 3-for-4 on the penalty kill.
“That was big, getting those three quick goals,” said Head Coach Chris Cogan, whose Pirates scored at 5:10 and then twice in the final minute of the second.
And that Strongsville goal marked the last puck to get by a goaltender in Saturday’s semifinal matchup between the Pirates and Mustangs. River’s defense choked off any possibility of the Mustangs stringing together multi-shot possessions, and after allowing a couple breakaway rushes early in the game, River shut down the Strongsville transition game in the third.
“Our defense did a nice job in keeping everything in front of them in the third,” said Cogan. “Guys were solid on the puck and didn’t allow Strongsville to gain any momentum.”
CANNON FIRE …
ON DECK: Rocky River will square off against GCHSHL Red North foe Shaker Heights in Sunday’s Baron Cup final. Shaker Heights defeated Kenston, 4-1, in Saturday’s other semifinal. The Red Raiders are 23-6-2 on the season, and they have two wins against River in tow. Shaker downed the Pirates, 4-3 in overtime, on Dec. 9; the Red Raiders defeated Rocky River, 3-1, on Jan. 19. The Pirates are in the hunt for their eighth Baron Cup title; Shaker is in search of its 13th.
PUTTING THE POWER IN POWERPLAY: Rocky River is now 9-of-31 (29.0 percent) on the powerplay since Jan. 6. Prior to that date, the Pirates had cranked out a success rate of 18.6 percent (11-of-59).
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