United Hockey defeated Macomb Dakota in Regional Final and advanced to the Quarterfinal level of play, where they faced Orchard Lake St. Mary’s
Article and photos courtesy of Miprepzone
By Michael Wallwork
MACOMB >> Austin Streng scored the game winner with 4:21 remaining in the third period, and Rochester United advanced to their first ever state semifinal with a 4-3 over the Orchard Lake St. Mary’s Eaglets Wednesday night.
“It started with a face off. Marcello (Munaco), amazing, amazing center got it perfectly right back, took a shot. (Michael) Zyrek was out front screening the guy, the goalie couldn’t see anything, I just put it home – group effort, great goal,” Streng said.
Rochester United never trailed in the game, taking the early lead on a shorthanded breakaway goal by Michael Zyrek just 2:39 into the game, making it 1-0 Rochester United. “Obviously, whenever you go up against a good program like that, you have to understand that they are going to come at you early and often. So we had to get the first one. It was of the utmost importance,” United head coach Bryan Kowalski said. “It was really nice to play with the lead, and I’m proud of the guys and the way they worked all night.”
That seemed to fire United up as Rochester United created a handful of excellent chances shortly after that, only to have Eaglets goaltender Preston Lenarcic come up with an equal number of outstanding saves to keep his team close.
However, Zyrek’s goal was a herald of things to come for both teams as five of the game’s seven goals came on special teams.
St. Mary’s would tie the game early in the second period on a fantastic shot by Mr. Hockey candidate Bryce Kallen. But after a slow start to the game, Rochester United’s power play would get going later in the period, connecting twice – one by Mathew Kanaras with 3:29 left in the period and another by Zyrek with 1:58 remaining in the middle period, the latter a five-on-three goal, to give United a 3-1 lead after two periods.
“I think we beat ourselves, getting into penalty trouble like that. You can’t do that in quarterfinal games, big games like this. You just can’t do that, can’t put teams on the power play, especially five-on-threes,” Eaglets head coach Brian Klanow said. “If we could have played them five-on-five it might have been a different story, but hey, hats off to them (Rochester United). They did what they needed to do.”
Rochester United turned in a masterful defensive effort, especially five-on-five as they were able to slow down the Eaglets’ offense, which had been clicking the last two weeks, averaging nearly five goals per game in that time. United’s defensive support helped them maintain the lead for much of the game.
“We came in with a plan today and said guys the way we’re going to win this game is execute this plan and everyone play for each other,” Kowalski said. “Our kids have been buying in all year. It speaks volumes about our program. We’ve been on quite a bit of a roll here. I’m a little superstitious so I don’t like to talk about the streak per se,” he added. “But I just can’t be more proud of these guys. Getting to Plymouth is such a huge accomplishment.”
But St. Mary’s had a third period comeback in them. The Eaglets’ got a shorthanded goal from Preston Hazelton with 12:52 remaining when Hazelton’s shot was saved by goalkeeper Domenico Munaco only to have the rebound bounce off the skate of a Rochester United player on the back side and into the open half of the net, cutting United’s lead to 3-2. St. Mary’s tied the game 3-3 with a power play goal from Andrew Dundas with 10:21 to play.
But United was able to bounce back, regain their footing, and eventually got the game winner off Streng’s stick.
The win was Rochester United’s 18th straight win. They are now 26-3 and have not lost since December 27. United will play in their first ever state semifinal on Friday when they face the only team in the state hotter than they are – top ranked Detroit Catholic Central who are 27-1-1 overall and who have shutout seven of their last eight opponents. “It feels great. The team has really stepped up this year. The chemistry on the team is really, really good. Every single line is contributing, and it’s just great to be able to make history for this team,” Streng said.