By Jim Smith
The Kent Roosevelt Rough Riders skated to an 8-2 victory against the Aurora Greenmen in
the first of a two games “Battle of Portage County” series on Thursday night at the Kent State University Ice Arena.
The teams represent the only varsity ice-hockey programs in the county.
After Aurora’s Will Pfiffner tallied an early first-period goal less than 2 minutes into the contest, via a wrist shot into the top corner of the Roosevelt net, the Rough Riders retaliated with a trio of goals within a span of 6:36.
Junior defenseman Alex Geist initiated Roosevelt’s response followed by goals off the sticks of Matt McCann and Teddy Maccarone. Maccarone’s goal was an unassisted effort from near the top of the right-side faceoff circle.
Alex Simms earned an assist on the Geist effort, while Geist was credited with a helper onMcCann’s score.
“We don’t get too anxious when those things happen, because we know it’s a long hockey game,” Roosevelt coach Brad Edward said, referencing Aurora’s early first-period strike. “It is unfortunate that we gave up a quick goal like that, but our guys have battled through so much adversity in the last two years that anytime adversity comes our way, we are like, ‘Hey, get the next one.’ The kids responded really well and kept their composure.”
Facing a 3-1 deficit, the Greenmen responded quickly following Maccarone’s goal when Mike Phillips found the back of the Rough Riders’ net with 2:13 remaining in the first period, trimming Roosevelt’s advantage to 3-2.
Aurora’s effort to slow Roosevelt’s momentum was hampered when they allowed the Riders’ Alex Simms to score an extremely late opening-period goal with a scant 5.3 seconds on the first-period clock to give Roosevelt a 4-2 lead at the first intermission.
“You hate to give up one in the last 10 seconds or the last minute of a period let alone the last 5 seconds,” said Aurora coach Joe Lawrie.
“After the first period, we are thinking we’ve been in a two-goal deficit before. That’s not that big of a deal. We’ve got some weapons in the room; we can turn around a two-goal deficit into a two-goal lead in a matter of minutes. But not the case tonight,” acknowledged Lawrie. “We have plenty of belief in the locker room.”
An unsportsmanlike conduct minor penalty on Aurora’s Frank Wiencek led to the only goal scored in the middle period, when Roosevelt’s Maccarone scored his second goal of the night on the power-play opportunity with 3:20 remaining in the period.
Maccarone’s night accounted for four points via the two goals combined with two assists.
“My mind goes ‘first pass’ and I’m trying to open up lanes for my teammates,” Maccarone said. “The back door was open quite a few times and getting the puck to the front of the net is always important because you never know what can happen.”
“Teddy’s a great player,” Edwards said. “He’s an offensive defenseman. He sees the ice so well and takes the opportunities when he can, but he doesn’t force those opportunities. He is always looking to make a pass before he goes for a scoring opportunity. He is a special player.”
Roosevelt’s senior captain Brad Simms scored the first of three final period Rough Rider goals less than 2 minutes into the stanza, while Parker Gibbons potted a pair of goals less than 20 seconds apart from one another near the 5:30 mark.
Gibbons skated the length of the ice to score the first of those goals and then banked a shot off the goaltender for his second goal.
“It felt great,” Gibbons said of his back-to-back goals. “It’s nice to get those two because it’s been a few games since I put a few into the back of the net.”
In describing his second goal, Gibbons, a junior forward, said, “I go for those shots — trying to bank it off the back, some weird-angle shots, where hopefully it can slip in possibly — probably more than I should. I am able to get those in sometimes and those feel some of the best just because no one thinks it’s going in and you’re just able to sneak it in and get a nice goal.”
“He’s (Gibbons) had some goals here and there, and he’s kind of been in a drought right now so it’s good to see him get back on the board and build a little bit more confidence,” Edwards said.
Roosevelt goaltender Brooke Binder made 12 saves on 14 shots, while Aurora’s Max Stefano defended 35-of-43 shots faced.
“Brooke settled in and made saves when she needed to. If we can eliminate mistakes in front of her, she’s a good backbone for us,” observed Edwards.