ROCKY RIVER, Ohio – Rocky River’s season-opening unbeaten streak nearly came to an end in Wednesday’s ice battle against the visiting Raiders of Shaker Heights High School.
But a pair of late-third-period power-play goals by junior defenseman Ethan Routenberg lifted the Pirates to a 2-2 tie in a contest that marked a rematch of the 2018 Baron Cup final.
Routenberg’s seventh and eighth goals of the young season were separated by 63 seconds, his first netfinder coming at the 2:06-mark of the third. The previous 42 minutes-and-54 seconds of hockey could well be described as a defensive tussle controlled by the Raiders (2-2-3).
And that was perhaps to be expected: in three meetings last season, River and Shaker played one overtime tournament game (a 4-3 win by the Raiders, Dec. 9) and one remarkable 2-1 contest in the title game of the Baron Cup (2-1 Pirate win on Feb. 11). Those games bracketed a 3-1 Shaker win at Hamilton Ice Arena on Jan. 19.
“Shaker had some speed that we hadn’t seen this season,” said Head Coach Chris Cogan.
The Raiders opened Wednesday’s scoring when Evan Grossman-Mckee buried a 10-footer from the slot at the 8:53-mark of the first period. That scoring opportunity was one of many for the visitors in an opening frame that ironically ended with Rocky River outshooting Shaker, 9-5. That’s because scrambling River defenders blocked no less than 10 shots in the period. (Three were thwarted by defenseman Parker McClain, who finished the contest with four blocked shots.)
Shaker doubled its lead to 2-0 at the 1:03 mark of the first. The Raiders’ second goal was a short-handed effort, a James Hubbard marker off a pass from Evan Richards.
The second period was a scoreless exchange of 12 shots — seven for the Pirates and five for the Raiders. Junior goaltender Ethan Mylett did more than his share in the Pirates hoisting a zero in the period. Every takeaway, blocked shot and save would matter in a taut affair ending in a 2-2 tie.
Shaker did a fine job closing off shooting lanes throughout much of the final period. River managed a couple quality looks including a golden opportunity on an odd-man rush at the 5:12-mark. But time and again, the Raiders managed to keep the twine behind netminder Maxim Ehlers undented.
Until a Pirate power play which began at 3:15 would bring the puck Ehlers’ way one time too many. Shooting from the left point off a clean feed from fellow defenseman Tommy Kelly, Routenberg snapped a shot that beat the Shaker goaltender. The River power-play goal came on a 5-on-3; another man would stay in the penalty box when play resumed.
And the resumed play was more of the same; at least it was a minute later when Kelly again slid a pass over to his fellow blue-liner, who launched a missile goal-ward. This time, with more traffic in front of the net: a tougher look from Ehlers’ vantage-point, but also a shot that would require Routenberg threading the needle.
A moment later, the puck was resting against iron, behind Ehlers, and Ethan Routenberg was in a mob of gray-jersey-ed Pirates bounding into each other and bouncing as high as steel skate blades and frozen water will allow.
… Owners still — after 63 more seconds of hockey — of an unbeaten record as the season heads toward December.
CANNON FIRE …
NOTABLE: For the game, Rocky River outshot Shaker Heights, 25-14. Ethan Mylett made 12 saves. The Pirate defense has held foes to 16 shots or less in every game this season (average 13.7). Rocky River has now yielded exactly two goals in six straight games. … With Luke Mallet leading the way, Pirate centermen helped keep the Shaker shot count in check by winning 9-of-12 defensive-zone faceoffs. Mallet went 5-0 on five such draws. Overall, the Raiders won 20-of-39 faceoffs (51.3 percent) in the contest. … The River power play went 2-for-4 on Wednesday. The Pirates have been successful of 31.0% (9-of-29) of their power-play attempts this season.
QUOTABLE: “Rout [Ethan Routenberg] and TK [Tommy Kelly] ran the 5-on-3 the way we practice it. They did a nice job out there with the amount of ice they had, and they continue to be an effective pair at both ends of the ice.” — Chris Cogan. … River’s top defensive pairing has now produced a combined 23 points through just seven games. Routenberg has scored a point in every game and now has eight goals and six assists on the year. Kelly has nine assists. … Wednesday’s second assists went to Aidan Dempsey (on goal No. 1) and Reece Rochester (on goal No. 2).
TACKING EAST-NOR’EAST: Wednesday’s contest marked Rocky River’s fifth straight home game. The Pirates are now slated to go on the road: River will be at the National Invitational Scholastic Showcase in Jamestown, N.Y., this weekend. The Maroon & White are scheduled to tangle with two Pennsylvania squads (Rustin, Peters Township) and one Indiana team (Culver) over Friday and Saturday.
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