ROCHESTER HILLS >> Coming into Saturday night’s game, the math was simple for the Lake Orion Dragons – a win over the Stoney Creek Cougars would clinch their second straight Oakland Activities Red title.
The game, however, was anything but simple for the Dragons who need a third period comeback to claim the win they needed, 3-2.
“It means a lot having back-to-back wins for the OAA and keeping the title in Lake Orion,” senior co-captain Jacob Helzer said.
“It means a lot for our seniors too going out on that note,” senior co-captain T.J. Hirschfield added.
Trailing 2-0, the Dragons finally got on the board with 4:50 to play in the second period when Joey Daprai won a faceoff to Thomas Reath and Reath quickly cut in front of the net and snapped a backhander in to make it 2-1.
Lake Orion then came out and scored two goals just 16 seconds apart early in the third period – getting a tying goal from Connor Graham and then what proved to be the game winner from Reath on Lake Orion’s very next shot.
“It shows we’ve got a lot of character making a comeback from 2-0, coming out in the third and showing what we’ve got,” said Graham, who is also a senior co-captain.
Midway through the game, Stoney Creek held a 2-0 lead thanks largely to their special teams. Victor Sicilia got the Cougars on the board with a power play goal just 1:47 into the second period. Three and a half minutes later, the Cougars doubled their lead when Julian Graziani found Jacob Matusik coming off the bench on a line change and Matusik snuck in for a breakaway, which he buried in the top of the net.
At the same time, Stoney Creek had been doing a good job of limiting the quality of Lake Orion’s chances.
“We did a pretty good job of keeping everything perimeter, especially in the first period,” Cougars head coach Steve Emery said. “I thought our energy was good. Brady played great in net again. We had the energy we just couldn’t stay out of the box and those turnovers, you can’t turn the puck over and not get the pucks out of the gray areas we call them – ten feet on either side of the blue line.”
But as the game went on, Lake Orion started creating more traffic in front of Stoney Creek goaltender Brady O’Shea who turned in another strong performance, notching 39 saves.
“Their goalie definitely played well tonight. We were getting a lot of one shot opportunities and we didn’t really get bodies to the net,” Lake Orion head coach Nick Field said. “But as the game progressed I thought we started to get more opportunities – more pucks to the net, more bodies to the net resulting in a goal and then sure enough the second and third goals were the same thing, pucks to the net and bodies to the net.”
With the win, Lake Orion improves to 17-7-1 overall and 10-1-1 in OAA Red. That includes an 11-game unbeaten streak in the division after the Dragons dropped their league opener to Troy United back in November.
“We knew we had a good team to win the OAA, so the rest of the season we just kept our heads high and battled every game and battled every game. We knew at the end of the season it was reachable, so we just kept grinding,” Pelzer said.
Stoney Creek (14-11 overall, 8-4 OAA Red) finishes third in the division.
“We take pride in doing well in our league,” Emery said. “We take a lot of pride trying to beat league opponents. We happened to do that quite a bit his year. (It is) something to build off for the future, but before that we’re going try go get the winner of Bloomfield and Brother Rice next week.”
Both teams now turn their attention to the state playoffs. Lake Orion opens the playoffs on Monday when the Dragons face Oxford-Avondale United. Stoney Creek has a first round bye and will face the winner of Bloomfield Hills and Birmingham Brother Rice on Thursday.