ADRIAN, Mich. — In an MCHA battle between an established powerhouse, Adrian, and an up-and-coming squad, Concordia, a big third period allowed the No. 4 Bulldogs to pull away from the Falcons and take game one of the weekend series 5-2.
Concordia kept the nation’s most potent offense relatively quiet through the first two periods allowing only two goals on 15 shots.
“Our game plan tonight was to limit our turnovers and stay out of the box,” said Concordia coach Jasen Wise. “I thought we did well of executing that in the first period. They had a few chances and they were able to bury. We had a few and we weren’t.”
In the first period, the Falcons came out hard taking it to the Bulldogs and even dominating play at times. However, stellar play from sophomore goaltender James Hamby kept the slate clean and the game tied for most of the period.
Despite being outshot and outplayed through most the period, the Bulldogs were able to get on the board first due to the grinding efforts of the line of Ryan Lowe, Zach Wilson and Andrew Dovey. A hard Bulldog forecheck that caused turnovers most of the night worked to perfection this time.
Lowe’s fourth goal of the season came at the 16:02 marker of the period as a Wilson pass found Lowe wide open in the slot. Wilson and Dovey did the dirty work in the corner before Wilson found Lowe in front. Lowe made no mistake beating Concordia’s Jake Hebda. putting Adrian up 1-0.
Just under three minutes later freshman sensation Shaquille Merasty extended the Bulldog lead to 2-0. Zach Graham read the Concordia defenseman perfectly, picking off a pass at the blue line before finding Merasty on the back door.
“They took it to us in the first,” commented Adrian coach Ron Fogarty. “They took it to us, but we got a little fortunate. Playing top teams like they do, they came out flying playing at the pace of a top team.”
Changes were made in both locker rooms as both teams took back to the ice for the second period, but no one was able to score. The Bulldogs controlled action for most of the period, but great play from Hebda and a little bit of luck kept the score at 2-0 after 40 minutes of play.
In the third period, both teams were able to break through the opponents’ defense as a total of five goals were scored overall, three by Adrian and two by Concordia.
Merasty’s second of the game and his 11th of the season extended the Adrian lead to 3-0. The long reach of the freshman got the Adrian power play its second of three on the night as he reached out and put a rebound past Hebda at the 2:47 mark of the period.
“I got open a couple times, shot the puck and thankfully, my shots just went in tonight,” Merasty said.
Josh Cousineau was able to run the score up to 4-0 just about 10 minutes later when Graham once again picked off a pass at the blue line before feeding Cousineau in front.
“We were hoping that we would be able to force their defense to start to play hot potato with the puck tonight and cause some turnovers,” said Merasty. “We managed to do that and cause some turnovers, giving up opportunities.”
The Falcons finally got on the board less than a minute after Cousineau scored when Cody Kostecki’s falling shot beat Hamby high to the glove side to cut the Adrian lead to 4-1.
Things started to heat up in the arena after that as frustration started to boil over between both teams. Concordia’s Ryan Jeremko was thrown out of the game after trying to fight Cousineau.
On the ensuing Bulldog power play, Shelby Gray scored to put Adrian back up by four. Gray sent a wobbly slap shot towards the goal that deflected off of someone in front before finding the back of the net.
The Bulldog frustration boiled over with just about 28 seconds remaining in regulation as Shawn Courtney dropped the gloves with Trammell Lynes, who had taken exception to a hit by Lowe and Courtney and Lynes went after each other after the ensuing faceoff.
Both Courtney and Lynes were given major penalties for fighting and tossed from the game after the fight. Courtney was given an additional minor for delay of game, putting the Falcons on the power play.
Concordia would take advantage of the four-on-three power play as Eli Riddle’s blast from the point beat Hamby clean to round out the scoring.
“[Concordia has] 23 young guys who want to make an impression,” Fogarty said. “They are out here looking to make an impression.”
As the two teams take back to the ice tomorrow afternoon for game two of the weekend, both teams will have slightly different looks to their lineup.
“Our game plan stays the same from game to game,” said Wise. “We need to limit turnovers, stay out of the box and play simple hockey.”