Reeths-Puffer’s Andy DeYoung takes the puck towards the goal during Wednesday night’s hockey opener between the Rockets and West Ottawa Panthers. Reeths-Puffer ripped off six straight goals to take control late in a 9-3 opening win.
MUSKEGON — The Reeths-Puffer Rockets sent an opening statement Wednesday night that they will be a force with which to be reckoned this year in the O-K Tier 2 Conference.
Riding a wave of offensive momentum, Reeths-Puffer took control of the opener in the second period, firing in six unanswered goals en route to a 9-3 victory over West Ottawa at the Lakeshore Sports Center to open up the season on a high note.
West Ottawa had already played three games this season before facing the Rockets and fell to 1-3 on the year with the loss, while the Rockets began their season at 1-0.
“The second period definitely helped out,” Rockets’ coach Eric Sikkenga said. “We started slow in the first period with a lot of nerves. The second period went well and we were able to go into the third period a little more relaxed.”
Reeths-Puffer held a 3-2 lead late in the second period when its explosion began. The Rockets scored twice within 30 seconds. Jeremy Joyce scored the first of the six straight goals when Josh Smith found him with a beautiful feed in front of the net and Joyce put it away. 30 seconds later, Brandon Young fired a long shot from the blue line that beat the Panthers’ goaltender and found the back of the net.
Smith and Joyce were the cornerstone offensive players all night for Reeths-Puffer, as Joyce scored three times and added two assists, while Smith assisted on two goals in addition to scoring one of his own.
“He was just moving his feet,” Sikkenga said of Joyce. “His whole line was. There was a lot of speed and a lot of forechecking pressure and not letting them out of the zone. It was a nice game for all three of those guys on that line.”
The Rockets were able to keep offensive pressure going with a good game of possessing the puck. Most of the action took place at the West Ottawa end, which kept the pressure off R-P’s defense.
“It helps a lot to get the shot totals in your favor and the time of possession,” Sikkenga said. “If the puck’s down there, mistakes cost them and they don’t cost us as much.”
Sikkenga felt nerves were a factor in Reeths-Puffer’s slow start.
“We were trying to force things, rather than making plays naturally with speed,” Sikkenga said. “It definitely helped us to relax putting some goals in the net. It helps to play with the lead.”
Other goal scorers for the Rockets included Kyle Kendra, Cody Vanderstelt, Rogan McEvoy and Casey Trautner.
“Hockey is a game of momentum and when you get a chance, you want to put them in, ride it and take a chance,” Sikkenga said. “In our conference, if you let someone up they’ll punch you in the nose.”