TROY >> The Lake Orion Dragons came into Wednesday night in a must-win situation if they were to keep their hopes of claiming the Oakland Activities Association Red title alive, and the Dragons did just that, knocking off first place Troy United 4-2.
Lake Orion combined opportunistic scoring with a swarming defensive effort and led from start to finish in this one.
The Dragons jumped out to an early lead when T.J. Hirschfield tucked in a backhander on a shorthanded breakaway to make it 1-0 Lake Orion just five minutes into the game. The Dragons doubled their lead on a tip-in goal by Nik Bergamin with just 2:59 left in the opening period.
“I thought the first period was not a very good period. We had to quickly adjust to their speed and their offense. I thought after the first period, it was a pretty even game after that,” Troy United head coach Tim Zimmerman said.
Troy United would dominate the second period, out-shooting the Dragons 13-5 in the period and pulling to within 2-1 when Mitch Cochran banged one in from close range with just 12 seconds left in the period.
“They definitely took it to us in the second, and we managed to tread water there. And that gave us an opportunity to come out in the third and get a win, and that’s what we did,” Lake Orion head coach Nick Field said.
But Lake Orion regained control in the third period and smothered any chance of a comeback by Troy United with sheer defensive hustle. With the physical play of Thomas Reath and the speed of Connor Graham setting the tone, the Dragons were winning the races to loose pucks and simply looked a step faster most of the night. The end result was a shutdown defensive job that held United to just two shots in the third period and 18 shots for the game.
“That’s kind of the plan right. The goal is to play sound structure and limit the other team’s quality chances against. And if you do that and everyone is disciplined within the structure and doing their job, that’s usually what’s going to happen. So it was a good effort by the team, a team commitment to defense,” Field said. “But also we try not to limit our offensive abilities. It’s just a matter of being disciplined with your responsibilities on the back end too.”
The Dragons got an insurance goal from Gabe Potyk with11:32 to play to make it 3-1. And the Dragons would need it as United found the net with their first shot on goal of the period when Brett Best shoveled one past Lake Orion netminder Reid Marshall with 7:12 to play to get Troy United back within a goal at 3-2.
With Lake Orion’s win, the Dragons improve to 14-6-1 on the year and 8-1-1 in OAA Red. Lake Orion controls its own destiny in the title race. Wins in their last two games will clinch the outright division title. The Dragons will continue their hunt for the division title a week from Friday when they travel to Farmington to take on the Falcons.
“It was good to come down here and find a way to get a win,” Field said. “Overall, it was a good solid win. Obviously, it was an important win in the conference. And we’re going to look forward to move on and keep grinding out til the end here,” he added.
Troy United (14-5, 9-2-1 OAA Red) maintains first place for the time being, but United has played more games than anyone else and now needs a little help in order to win at least a share of the division crown.
“They (Lake Orion) were the better team tonight. You have to give them credit for that. They came to play today, and they’re an excellent team,” Zimmerman said. “We’ll need some help. You’d always like to have it in your hands and not put it in anyone else’s hands. But we didn’t do a very good job today, doing that. But give them credit, they (Lake Orion) did a great job,” he added.
United has a quick turnaround, playing akeland in the Public School Showcase tomorrow afternoon