CHELSEA — Pinckney hockey coach Ted Kroll has had a ringside seat for all 47 of Connor Smith’s goals this season.
But, after a first period which saw Grand Ledge-Fowlerville cover him like a glove, Kroll had a different message for Smith.
“We told him they were putting 3-4 guys on him, and he needed to dish the puck,” Kroll said.
Which Smith did, recording three assists as the Pirates knocked off the Comets-Gladiators 7-3 at the Arctic Coliseum.
But, on Pinckney’s senior night, it was a junior defenseman, Mitch Olsen, who gave the Pirates a spark.
He scored 2:20 into the game and the Pirates never looked back, taking a 3-0 lead in the first half of the period.
“I was just going hard,” Olsen said. “I sent it through the D and it went 5-hole (between the legs). Goalie didn’t see it.”
GLF’s goalie, Kolin Newman, gave up three goals in just under 10 minutes and was replaced by Steven Ward-Brown.
“(Newman) should have had it,” GLF coach Randy Montrose said.
Olsen scored again five minutes later, and Eddie Roberts, who came into the game with five goals and 30 assists, took a feed from Smith and scored to make it 3-0.
It was a nonconference game between GLF (9-12-1) and Pinckney (8-15-1), and both teams competed hard, and as the hits got bigger, the tension grew until Smith checked GLF’s Nico Montrose after Montrose had released a pass.
For Niko’s brother, Alex, the hit came a little late, and the retaliation sparked several bouts on the ice as the buzzer went off to end the third period.
“I figured,” Randy Montrose wryly joked, “that some of these guys might want to play another spot part-time next year and wrestle. Honestly, when you have a good contest like this, emotions guy high, and I didn’t mind that. I’d prefer the guys stay away from it, but the good thing is when guys want to compete like this.”
Four players were given minors for roughing with a 10-minute misconduct, followed by referees talking to both benches before the start of the second period.
When play resumed, the Pirates struck quickly, with Aaron Nanos skating down the center of the sheet and scoring 22 seconds into the period to effectively put the game out of reach. Niko Montrose scored his first goal of the night about a minute later, but the Pirates defense, led by goalie Matt Pankow, held the Comets-Gladiators at bay the rest of the way.
Pankow stopped 41 shots in a game where Pinckney outshot Grand Ledge-Fowlerville 45-44.
But Pinckney coach Ted Kroll had a bit of a surprise after the game.
“Aside from the first 10 minutes of the game, I thought we played well defensively,” he said. “The first 10 minutes, in our defensive zone, were our worst 10 minutes, and we corrected that. We could have been down early if not for a couple of big saves.”
Part of that, Alex Montrose said, came through poor aim.
“We were feeding his glove with shots,” the senior said, “compared to keeping it on the ice and going for rebounds. If we had gotten away from (that) we would have had more goals, but you can’t play on the what-ifs.”
In all, five players scored for the Pirates, the most this season. Smith assisted on the final two goals, both in the third period.
“He’s on that chase for 50, so he wasn’t happy,” Kroll said, smiling. “But we were happy with him setting up guys.”
Nico Montrose and Roberts finished with two goals apiece for their teams.
“Our kids are learning how to play against better competition,” Randy Montrose said. “We’re seeing teams from the KLAA and it’s nice to be able to see that. The kids are learning. It’s nice to see how hard they competed.”
Both teams play on Friday. Pinckney is home against Waterford, while GLF is home against Fenton-Linden.
“We have Waterford, and we’ll try to roll in with a couple of wins before the playoffs,” Kroll said.