Power-play goals slow Cards

BIG RAPIDS — Tim Blashill can sense it.

He can see his Big Rapids hockey team getting better each day in practice and in every game.

SHOT ON NET: Big Rapids’ AJ Albright tries to get the puck into the net against Grandville during Wednesday’s hockey game. (Pioneer photo/Bob Allan)

Nothing deters him from that fact, despite a 5-3 loss to Grandville on Wednesday night at the Ewigleben Ice Arena.

“We need to get everything together,” Blashill said. “Right now, it is one thing that is stopping us and it is a different thing each night.”

Wednesday night it was the penalty kill.

With Big Rapids leading 3-2 after Matt Glowacki knocked in rebound from the shot of Justin Austin that also saw Zack Cox earn an assist, the Cardinals were whistled for a pair of penalties. The Bulldogs capitalized on both, scoring power-play goals by Brandon Rozema and Ryan Fischer for a 5-3 lead.

In between the goals was a tally by Noah Weigle.

“They weren’t bad penalties, they are penalties that are going to happen,” Blashill said. “I thought we did a good job of staying out of the box. Last game, we killed off every penalty, (Wednesday) we gave up those two.”

Finishing the game with a strong third period also has been a concern for Blashill.

In a game against East Grand Rapids, the Cardinals led 2-1 going into the third period, but fell 4-2. Wednesday proved more of the same.

“Part of it is mental, it is fragile for the kids,” he said. “We have the lead going into the third period and the kids are gripping their sticks too hard. We have to play relaxed, but that is easier said than to do.”

The game started with a bang with three goals in the first three minutes and four for the first period.

Grandville opened the scoring 42 seconds in on a tally by Matt Shultz.

But Big Rapids answered with a pair of goals by Joe Carney, scoring with just under two minutes gone past and then a little more than three minutes into the first period.

“(Grandville’s) first goal, was a wide-open shot,” Carney said. “We weren’t playing our hockey. Our hockey was hitting and getting to the puck first. I felt (our) first goal got us back and got everyone on the bench excited.”

The second goal was a designed play off a faceoff in the defensive zone. At the drop of the puck, a forward takes off down the ice with the hope that the team wins the face off.

The player, in this case Doug Bleeker, fires a pass off the boards to the streaking forward.

“It is a play called from the bench,” Carney said. “Coach sees if the (defensemen) are cheating and if they are, we run it.”

Big Rapids held the 2-1 lead until almost 12 minutes past in the first period when the Bulldogs’ Evan Sitar found the back of the net to even the game.

The Cardinals have one remaining regular season contest — Saturday at Grand Rapids Catholic Central.

Blashill will be looking for everything to come together in the last game before the postseason.

“I feel for the kids because we are playing good hockey,” he said. “The way they have competed all year and you are seeing the results. The kids are developing, understanding the systems better and are playing better hockey.”

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