Article and photos courtesy of MIPrepzone
By Michael Wallwork
BLOOMFIELD HILLS – Rochester United wrapped up an undefeated Oakland Activities Association regular season with a 4-2 victory over Lake Orion Thursday night.
“I’m really, really proud of my guys this year. It was really special to get this win tonight,” United head coach Bryan Kowalski said. “This is a big one. We knew coming into today that we locked up first place and we were going to compete for the championship. This was a pride game for us. This is something we’ve never done is run the table and go undefeated in the OAA, and it doesn’t happen often. I’ve got a very special group, and I’m proud of all these guys.”
Austin Streng got the game winner with 47 seconds remaining in the second period. Streng controlled a puck along the left boards, escaped two defenders to charge in clean on the goaltender, and then roofed a backhanded shot for a shorthanded goal and a 3-1 Rochester United lead.
Lake Orion would answer back with just over eight seconds remaining the period, netting a five-on-three power play goal when Kade Manzo and Lucas Barber crossed behind the Rochester United net, and Barber slipped away with the puck for a wraparound goal to make it 3-2.
Led by the line of Grant Peterson, Nick Haddad, and Dylan Ross, the Dragons would have a couple of good chances to tie the game in the third period. “Peterson, Haddad, and Ross really stepped up and had a great game. They were the line out there the last three minutes that had that scoring chance,” Lake Orion head coach Adam Krefski said.
But the Rochester United defense held firm, and Streng netted an empty net goal to seal the win with just under one minute to play. United dominated play territorially, especially in the first two periods, combining a strong forecheck and intelligent play from their defense to keep the pressure on the Dragons and make it hard for Lake Orion to get out of their own end.
“We were telling the defensemen to make sure they hold that line, hold the pace a little bit but also to first step back and come back, survey. We really wanted to support and to get pucks back deep in their zone, and I thought our forecheck did a really, really good job tonight. Everybody sold out, and I was proud of them,” Kowalski said.
Still, a big game from Lake Orion goaltender Reid Marshall, who finished with 29 saves, combined with opportunistic scoring, left the Dragons hanging around until the very end. Rochester United also got goals from Michael Zyrek and Niko Mantzios as United once again combined balanced offense with great speed and depth, rolling four line all night against Lake Orion.
With the win, Rochester United improves to 18-3 overall and finishes the OAA regular season at 11-0. United has clinched a spot in the OAA title game which will be played on February 23 at the Onyx Ice Arena. United’s opponent in that game has yet to be determined. In the meanwhile, United has a handful of non-league games left on their schedule starting with a game against Rockford Friday in the Chelsea Public School Showcase.