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In a closely contested game throughout, Kent Roosevelt's Rough Rider hockey team dropped a 3-2 decision to White East Division champion Orange on Thursday night at the Kent State Ice Arena.
"It was a good matchup. This year's league champion comes into our building on Senior Night and our kids were ready," said Roosevelt coach Ben Barlow.
The opening period played like a playground basketball game of H-O-R-S-E in which players match each other's scoring effort. Throughout the period, the Riders responded to each of the Orange Lions' goals.
Orange netted the game's first goal at 8:52 on an unassisted effort by Chad Sonkin. Roosevelt sophomore Gabe Smith matched the Lions' tally with a top left-corner of the net wrist shot after an assist by Okko Boger at 6:13.
After several minutes of back-and-forth play, Orange's special teams scored a power-play goal at the 3:10 mark. Corey Bonda earned the goal on assists from Evan Raupp and Emory Butcheck.
Not to be outdone on special-teams play, the Rough Riders responded with a power-play effort of their own as Boger drilled a shot from just inside the blue line with under a minute and a half remaining in the first period. Smith assisted on the extra-man effort.
"I liked our intensity and focus. We knew right then we were in for a good game," said Barlow, reflecting on a first period in which each team had 11 shots on goal.
After a scoreless second period in which both goaltenders, Nate Grootegoed of Kent Roosevelt and Greg Russell of Orange stopped a combined 21 shots, the teams entered the final period of regulation knotted at two goals each.
Kent Roosevelt opened the third period on a power play after a late second-period penalty by Orange.
"We were able to be rested, come out and start the third period on a power play in a game that is tied. You can't ask for a better situation than that," said Barlow.
Unfortunately, the Riders were unable to capitalize on that opportunity.
"There was just not a lot of urgency by us in that power play. I think that got us a little bit. It just didn't work out for us," said Barlow.
While the Riders controlled the tempo and outshot the Lions 10-4 in the final period, it was Lion sophomore Evan Raupp who scored at 9:09 of the period, providing Orange with its game-winning goal. Sonkin and Bonda were credited with assists.
"We had a couple of good scoring opportunities, but they took advantage of a mistake the Rough Riders made and scored a game-winning goal," said Barlow. "With that said, it was one of the best games we've been a part of all year. Orange is a very good team. I am so proud of our seniors, and our team rallied around them."
Blue line notes
n Prior to Thursday night's game, the Rough Riders honored seniors Kyle Manning and Jake Schmauch, exchange-student Okko Boger of Finland, and their families. To the delight of Boger, the Finnish National Anthem was played prior to the U.S. National Anthem. To date, Manning has 91 goals and 91 assists (182 total points) in his high school career.
n Kent Roosevelt's final league game is at 1:45 p.m. Saturday against CVCA at the Kent State University Ice Arena. The game will be followed by a "Try Hockey For Free Event" for any Kent City School student in grades 1-8.
n Follow Jim Smith on twitter @bluelinenotes