The Ice Rams celebrate Senior Night. ~ Contributed Photo
GRAND RAPIDS - The Rockford Rams Varsity Hockey Club have officially entered the final stretch of the regular season. With the playoffs approaching—starting the last week of February—the Rams hosted GR Catholic Central in a key match-up, Saturday, Feb. 16, at Griff’s Icehouse.
The contest offered several story lines. The game featured the top two teams in the OK Conference-Rue Division. The Rams entered the game with a league record of 7-1; CC entered the game undefeated in league play at 7-0. If Rockford had aspirations of claiming a Rue Division championship, this was a must-win game. CC was looking to complete the season sweep of the Rams; Rockford was looking to avenge an early season 5-4 loss to the Cougars. If all this wasn’t enough, it was Senior Night for the Ice Rams. Rockford honored 16 seniors, and their parents, during pre-game ceremonies in front of an enthusiastic home crowd.
Both teams entered the game ready to compete. Each squad earned scoring chances in the first period, but neither team could solve the opposing goalie. The opening frame ended in a scoreless tie.
The second period started much the same as the first period, with both teams getting scoring chances and no goals scored. Late in the middle session it was CC that struck first; the Cougars found themselves on a 2-on-1 rush that resulted in a 1-0 lead. The teams headed to the second intermission with the Rams trailing 1-0.
Rockford started the third period on a 5-on-4 powerplay. The Rams were looking to take advantage but instead took a penalty of their own. Thirty seconds into the 4-on-4, the Rams finally solved the CC netminder as Brendan Bach (unassisted) lit the lamp on a wrap-around shot. Rockford seized the momentum, scoring the go-ahead goal five minutes later as Dan Sokol (assisted by Cade Baumgardner) deked the Cougar netminder and stuffed the puck in the back of the net. Ice Rams goalie Zac Sherman stood strong the rest of the way and Rockford earned the hard-fought 2-1 victory.
With a win on Monday, Feb. 18 against West Ottawa, the Ice Rams (15-6-1 overall, 8-1-0 in league play) will secure no worse than a share of the OK Rue Division championship.
Rockford honored sixteen seniors prior to the game against Catholic Central: #1 Zac Sherman, #2 Alex Jones, #3 Cody Smith, #4 Blake Jackson, #6 Cade Baumgardner, #9 Dan Sokol, #10 Ethan McCormack, #11 Kevin Healy, #14 Brendan Bach, #16 Michael Bedford, #19 Braden Dahlke, #20 Taylon Raghib, #24 Aidan Hoffman, #25 Eliot VanPelt, #27 Hunter Dakin, and #31 Caleb Keely. Congratulations to these players and their parents.
Next up: the Ice Rams wrap up the 2018/19 regular season, Saturday, Feb. 23 with a road trip to Southside Ice Arena to battle Byron Center. Puck drop is slated for 7 p.m. The MHSAA playoffs begin the week of February 25. Rockford has a bye in round one and will face the winner of Kenowa Hills/Northview on Thursday, Feb. 28. The game will be played at Griff’s Icehouse; time TBA. For the full MHSAA playoff schedule, please visit https://www.mhsaa.com/sports/ice-hockey. As always, you can track the Ice Rams online at RockHockey.org or on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.