Reeths-Puffer forward Cody Vanderstelt (5) heads for the goal with the puck while David Kruse defends for Portage Northern during last Saturday’s hockey game. The Rockets won, 3-1.
MUSKEGON — The Reeths-Puffer Rockets have, to coach Eric Sikkenga’s recollection, never started 9-0 until last Saturday.
The team achieved that remarkable feat in its final game before Christmas break, a 3-1 win over Portage Northern at the Lakeshore Sports Center in a game the Rockets had to come back to win.
R-P had edged Grandville 2-1 in a road contest the night before, creating some tough circumstances for the Rockets, but Sikkenga was impressed with the way his team played.
“Two really good opponents back to back is tough,” Sikkenga said. “Today, having to come back against a good opponent was tough. But they fought back. They brought back their injuries and shrugged them off and played well.”
It was the Huskies who got on the board first when David Kruse pocketed a power-play goal 11 minutes into the game, the only score of the first period.
It was the last goal that goalie Jared Erickson allowed, as he turned away 30 of the 31 shots he faced. The 31 shots were an identical total to R-P, as both teams boasted quick, cogent offensive games.
“Goaltenders are the reason you win games like this,” Sikkenga said. “When the shots are even and you win 3-1, someone’s responsible.”
While Erickson held down the fort along with his defensemen in the final two periods, the Rockets’ offense turned it on. Cody Vanderstelt evened the score early in the second period with a goal, assisted by Jeremy Joyce and Brenden Alderink. Kyle Kendra gave R-P the lead a few minutes later off a great feed in front of the net by teammate Alex Dinger. Derreck Pleimling also was credited with an assist on the Rockets’ second score.
“Kyle’s the best kid we have coming off the half-wall with the puck,” Sikkenga said. “When you give him the puck, he’s going to put it in the basket.”
Reeths-Puffer put the game away barely a minute and a half into the third period when Vanderstelt found a loose puck in front of the net and fired it into the goal. Casey Trautner and Dean Griffin got assists on the play.
Sikkenga credited Pleimling, Tommy Munroe and Alex Lewandoski with great defensive play as the Rockets successfully killed off each penalty it was assessed after the Huskies’ first goal.
The Rockets’ coach said that since he can’t recall a team starting 9-0 before, the start “has to be” considered exceeding the expectations he had for the squad.
“Going into Christmas undefeated, that’s fantastic,” Sikkenga said. “We’ve had a difficult schedule and a lot of good opponents, so showing up every day has really been nice.”
R-P pounds Fraser
ST. CLAIR SHORES — Reeths-Puffer opened the St. Clair Shores Tournament Wednesday night with another easy win, defeating Fraser 6-0 to move to 10-0 this season.
The Rockets scored twice in the first period and pumped in four goals in the third period to put the game away. Reeths-Puffer’s offense again dominated proceedings, as the Ramblers only managed eight shots on goal. Aaron Andrews saved all eight in goal for R-P.
Derreck Pleimling and Brandon Young each scored two goals and had one assist for the Rockets. Two Reeths-Puffer players, Jeremy Joyce and Kyle Kendra, scored a goal and had an assist each, and Josh Smith and Casey Trautner each notched two assists for the Rockets.
for OT win
ST. CLAIR SHORES — Reeths-Puffer kept a remarkable early-season run going Thursday night in the St. Clair Shores Tournament, pumping in two goals in the third period to tie the contest and then adding another one in overtime for the 5-4 victory.
R-P moved to 11-0 with the victory.
Four Rockets had three points in the contest, with two goals coming from Josh Smith. Smith also had an assist. Jeremy Joyce and Alex Dinger each scored a goal and had two assists, while Dean Griffin had three assists.
Also scoring for the Rockets were Kyle Kendra with a goal and an assist, and Derreck Pleimling with an assist.
R-P ended the St. Clair Shores Tournament with two victories and will next play this Friday when they travel to Ferris State University to take on Big Rapids.