A young Forest Hills Central team played a wonderful hockey game Tuesday night at Patterson Ice Center, but East Grand Rapids desperately wanted to keep its season going. The result was a hard-fought 5-4 overtime win for the Pioneers, avenging last year’s first-round playoff loss to the Rangers.
Forest Hills Central got on the board first when Josh Koets scored from Cole Munger. East came back to tie the game six minutes later when Ben Forstner scored a power play goal assisted by Mike Malewitz and Jake Stewart. Mason Kelly put the Rangers back in the lead with an unassisted goal, and Cole Beaufait extended the lead to 3-1 when he stickhandled past a Pioneer defender and scored on a backhand, with Kelly drawing the assist.
Forest Hills Central took a 3-1 lead into the first intermission and had a golden opportunity to put the game away when East took a five-minute penalty. The Pioneer penalty killers managed to prevent further damage, however, and East used the momentum gained from the kill to get back into the game. With the teams back at even strength, Forstner scored his second goal of the night on a textbook give and go with linemate Colin Stecco to get the Pioneers within a goal at 3-2. Eddie Albert also assisted.
Lance Hoezee tied the game for East when he scored his first goal of the season three minutes later, assisted by Robbie Stuursma and Nick Milanowski. The tie didn’t last long, though, as Charlie Brewer roofed a backhand on a mini-breakaway less than thirty seconds later. Cole Beaufait and Jacob Demeter assisted on the goal, which gave the Rangers a 4-3 lead.
With five minutes left in the second period, two Pioneer seniors combined on the tying goal. Stewart fired a shot from the point that deflected off a Ranger defenseman and fell in the goal crease. Forstner whacked away at the puck and the Forest Hills Central net minder until the puck slid over the goal line, knotting the score at 4-4.
The two teams played a scoreless third period, sending the game into sudden-death overtime.
The game was decided on the first shift of the extra session, as the line of Forstner, Malewitz, and Stecco combined for the game winner. Malewitz got the play started by chipping the puck behind the Ranger net. Forstner picked it up there and slid a no-look, spinning backhand pass to a wide-open Stecco in front of the goal. Stecco fired it past the Forest Hills goalie, ending the game and beginning a wild celebration in front of a raucous East student section.
Lukas Schut earned the victory in goal for the Pioneers, stopping 26 of the thirty shots he faced.