By Jim Smith | Special to the Record-Courier
If it’s pitching that wins the close games in baseball, in hockey it’s good goaltending.
And in a 1-0 Kent Roosevelt victory in the opening round of the Ohio High School Athletic Association Kent District hockey tournament, it was great goaltending throughout that kept the game close — and a single goal by Rough Rider sophomore Gabe Smith that made the difference.
Smith’s goal in the third period lifted the Rough Riders past Kenston 1-0 on Thursday night at the Kent State University Ice Arena.
In an extremely competitive and evenly played scoreless first and second periods, the Riders and Bombers exchanged a total of 27 shots, with each goaltender stopping every attempt sent their way. Kent goalie Nate Grootegoed stopped 11 shots and Kenston’s Ryan Malik 16 in the first two periods.
“Nate put forth an outstanding effort tonight,” said Roosevelt coach Ben Barlow. “Our team played ultra-aggressive defense tonight and that was key in stopping the high-octane offense of Kenston.”
For the game, Grootegoed stopped all 20 shots he faced.
“This was Kenston’s best burst of energy against us all season,” said Barlow.
In the third period the impressive play of the netminders continued, and it was Smith’s scoring effort at the 7:08 mark of the final period that provided the single-goal margin the Riders needed to win the game and advance in the tournaments.
“Gabe, Gordie Fisher and Kyle Manning were on an extended shift, having been on the ice for over a minute and a half,” said Barlow of the game-winning goal. “Gordie stayed with the puck, took possession and found Gabe driving hard to the net and he put it in.”
Smith credited teammate Fisher’s assist as the key to his game-winner.
“Gordie made a great heads-up play that changed the game by making a pass to me,” said the Rough Rider sophomore. “The pass was as important as the goal.”
The Rough Riders advance to play Mayfield on Sunday at 3 p.m. at the Kent State Ice Arena.