The lone winner coming out of Wednesday night’s SWMHSHL action at Wings West were the Blades of Southwest Michigan, who defeated the Portage Northern Huskies 5-3. Meanwhile, the Kalamazoo Eagles and Mattawan Wildcats played to a 7-7 tie.
It was a victory in a way for the Eagles, who had lost to Mattawan 6-1 back in November. The opening game of the evening saw heavy scoring in the first and third periods. Mattawan’s Ben Berkowitz scored first on a powerplay with 10:03 on the clock. 50 seconds later, Michael Winters evened the game for the Eagles and only 31 seconds after that, Nick Burr put the Eagles ahead. The Wildcats tied the game back up with 7:33 on a Brady Lawrence goal. At 3:34, David Kiel reclaimed the lead for the Eagles, but Jeff Kirkendall tied things back up only eight seconds later. James Wressel then scored with a minute remaining for a 4-3 Eagles lead at the intermission.
Neither team found the back of the net in the second period, with the lone highlight coming when Eagles coach Brent Jarrett was ejected for arguing the spot for a face-off. (Fittingly, the song “Forget You” by Cee Lo Green was playing during the argument, which is likely the PG version of how coach Jarrett felt during the moment.)
A Zachary Blackwell powerplay goal at 13:16 in the third put the Eagles ahead by two. Kirkendall got his team back within one 34 seconds later, but at 11:17, Wressel pushed the Eagles back up by two. Kirkendall made it a hat-trick at 9:59, which Wressel matched at 7:08.
Berkowitz got his second score to put Mattawan back within one with 5:22 remaining. Then, with 47 seconds left, Jake Kruzich evened the game at 7-7 and forced overtime. Neither team could break the deadlock, leading to the draw. Burr led all players with five points on a goal and four assists for the Eagles. For Mattawan, Kirkendall had four points on the hat-trick and an assist with Berkowitz getting two of each for four as well.
The second contest of the evening saw a 5-3 win for the Blades of Southwest Michigan over the Portage Northern Huskies. Both teams added one goal in the first period; from Will Todd of the Huskies and Evan Wilson of the Blades. Wilson scored once more 17 seconds into period number two. Before the first minute of the period could elapse, Grant Ernst tied the game at 2-2.
It remained at 2-2 until the 1:56 mark of the second on a powerplay goal by the Blades’ Mason Fitch. Fitch scored again with two seconds remaining on an odd occurrence. Portage Northern had a 5-on-3 powerplay begin with seven seconds left in the second and with a face-off in the offensive zone, decided to pull their goalie for a brief 6-on-3 advantage. Fitch took advantage of this, clearing the puck all the way into the net off the face-off.
The third period became very chippy between the two squads, featuring 47 penalty minutes and two ejections. Griffin McLeod knocked the water-bottle off the net on a rocket from the blue-line at 5:26 to get the Huskies back within one. However, Evan Wilson’s third goal of the evening in the final two minutes sealed up a 5-3 Blades win. He finished with a game-high four points.
The win puts the Blades at 8-5 overall and 2-3 in league play, tied for third with Portage Central. Portage Northern falls to 2-9 overall and 0-4 in league play. The earlier draw puts Mattawan at 7-4-1 overall and 4-1-1 in league play. The Eagles are 2-9-1 overall and 1-3-1 in league play. Mattawan is off until Friday, January 13 at home against the St. Joseph Lakeshore Warriors. The Eagles host Byron Center Friday, then meet the Riley Hockey Club on Saturday the 14th. The Blades travel to Dexter Saturday, then south of the border against Valparaiso Sunday. The Huskies go Saturday to Okemos, then face Portage Central in league play next Wednesday.
Listen back the full broadcasts from both contests on the Slocum Sports Network below:
SW MICHIGAN BLADES VS PORTAGE NORTHERN
KALAMAZOO EAGLES VS MATTAWAN