by John Kennett
Midland High had too much depth and talent for a pesky Mount Pleasant hockey team Wednesday. The Chemics scored four third-period goals to pull away and take a 6-0 Saginaw Valley League win at the Midland Civic Arena.
"That Mount Pleasant team doesn't quit," said Chemics' coach Jeff Brown. "I think we kind of stayed the course. They've been playing teams tough. They're not fancy. They have just 16 kids and they keep coming at you."
Oilers' coach Alex Weisenburger realized his team was outmanned.
"We were running only two lines, trying to keep up with (Midland)," he said. "They're a physical team that skates well. After a while our communication broke down, and because of the pressure they constantly put on you in the offensive zone, they made some quick plays around the net and scored."
The Chemics finish the SVL season undefeated at 8-0 and stand at 19-5 overall. They'll return to the Midland Civic Arena Monday for a Division 2 pre-regional game against Dow High at 6:30 p.m.
"We'll enjoy it tonight," said Brown. "Being 8-0 in the (SVL) is a good accomplishment. Tomorrow we go back to work, and no one cares if you are 8-0. It's one and done."
Chemics' senior forward Sam Gannon is excited about the opportunity to beat Dow for the third time this season.
"There will definitely be a big crowd," said Gannon. "It definitely won't be a finesse game. Our games with Dow are always rough, grind-it-out games. This is for city bragging rights. I'm looking forward to it."
In the last four years, Midland has advanced twice to the finals and once to the semifinals at Plymouth's Compuware Arena. If the Chemics are to make another deep run in the playoffs, the defense will have to be stellar.
"We've just got to keep our momentum going for the playoffs," said senior defenseman Travis Walker. "We've been playing pretty well lately. We have four senior defensemen. If we play good defense, we've got a good chance to go a long ways."
The Oilers fall to 8-14 overall and 1-6 in the SVL.
"The first period and a half, we were hanging in there," said Weisenburger. "They're the best team on our schedule."
Neither team could find the back of the net in the first period. With 3:09 left in the period, the Chemics went on the power play. Midland senior Jason Regier got the puck on the right wing, but his shot bounced off the inside of the right post and ricocheted away.
The turning point in the game came when Gannon and Walker both ended up in the penalty box early in the second period, giving the Oilers a 5-on-3 advantage for 25 seconds.
Weisenburger used a time-out to set up a play, but the Chemics' defense withstood the challenge and proceeded to kill off both penalties.
"That was rough not to score there," said Weisenburger. "We drew up the play we wanted and we just didn't get it to the net."
Gannon and Walker atoned for their mistakes five minutes later. On the power play, Gannon took a pass from Elliott Digison and his slap shot got past goalie Adam Salisbury for a 1-0 lead with 5:52 left in the period. Walker earned the other assist on the goal.
"We felt like we were outplaying them, but couldn't get anything going," said Gannon. "We were really shooting glove-heavy, and we started working on putting the puck somewhere else. When I put my first one in, we got a nice 3-on-2 and I put the puck low and it went in. Then we started to step it up."
A minute later, Chemics' junior Forrest Parsch found himself with the puck on the right wing and his shot went off the back of Salisbury and nestled into the net, putting the Chemics' up 2-0 heading into the final period.
Just 30 seconds into the third period, Walker gave the Chemics breathing room when his unassisted back-hander got past Salisbury, making it 3-0.
"I just drove wide, saw an opportunity and put it between his arms," said Walker.
The Chemics added three goals in the last 5:23 as juniors Scott Naples and Thomas Smith scored along with sophomore Tony Moody.
"We had a lot of underclassmen step up today," said Gannon. "I think that they want it as much as we do, to go to Plymouth (for the semifinals)."
The Chemics outshot the Oilers 41-10 as senior Keith Inman earned the win in goal.