By Dave Tomczak
Local Sports Journal
Meeting for the third time this season, Mona Shores and Grand Haven hockey saved the best showdown for the Stan Konrad Memorial Tournament championship game.
For every goal the Sailors scored Friday at the L.C. Walker Arena, the Buccaneers found a way to respond.
And every time the Sailors thought they had put the Bucs away, Grand Haven found a cut into the deficit.
But in the end, Mona Shores’ depth proved too much as it held on for a 8-6 win, claiming its fifth consecutive Konrad Tournament title.
“It’s always going to be tougher, they’re a good team,” Shores coach Pat Rabbitt said of beating the Bucs. “To beat a team like them three times in one year, it’s tough.”
Mona Shores, which already owned 5-1 and 3-0 wins over GH this year, jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the first 10 minutes of the opening period.
Brandon Cottrell scored 6:46 into the contest and Adam Ulfsax added his third goal of the tournament four minutes later off a rebound in front of the net.
But Grand Haven, which scored four goals on the power-play, got its first one with 6 minutes left in the first period, as Tom Zelenka cut the Sailors lead to 2-1 at the break.
“(Grand Haven) played real well and kept pushing it,” Rabbitt said. “But I was not happy with how we responded, I was not happy about our lack of self-discipline.”
Gage Veltman would give the Sailors a 3-1 lead just 22 seconds into the second period on a power-play goal but Veltman again would respond, netting his second tally of the night two minutes later to cut the lead down to one goal again, 3-2.
Mona Shores then looked as if it were about to pull away, getting goals from Austin Swiatek and Glen Kastelic to build a 5-2 lead with less than six minutes left in the period.
But a 5-minute major penalty to Shores allowed the Bucs, already on the power-play, to skate with a 5-on-3 man advantage to finish off the second period.
And it paid off, as Asa Pellegrom’s goal cut the lead to 5-3 and Veltman finished off his hat-trick with his third goal just 10 seconds after Pellegroms, pulling the Bucs to within 5-4 heading to the third.
“I’m really proud of them tonight,” Bucs coach Dan Gadbois said of his team. “I couldn’t be more proud, they didn’t quit all night. I couldn’t ask anymore than that.”
Grand Haven finally fought all the way back, as Ian Hibbard scored on a breakaway 3:39 into the third period to even the score at 5-all.
But like most of the game, that lead didn’t last long. Ulfsax, who was named the tournament MVP, took a pass from Reed Hrynewich and tipped it past Bucs goalie Mark Nalley for a lead that Grand Haven would never catch up too.
“Reed did all the work,” Ulfsax said of the goal. “(He) put it in front of the net and I just whacked at it. It was a bang-bang play.”
Just over a minute later, Cottrell added his second goal of the game for a 7-5 lead.
But once again, the Sailors would give Grand Haven an opportunity with the extra man, and the Bucs took advantage, scoring a power-play goal by Bodhi Nicosia with three minutes left in the game and pulled within one goal, 7-6.
Hrynewich, who finished with two assists in the game, broke through two defenders and scored with 1:46 left to finish off the scoring and record his 100th point of his varsity hockey career.
The Sailors (11-0) finished with a 33-26 shot advantage, goalie Nate Rabbitt finished with 27 saves and Swiatek and Cottrell finished with three assists each.
Nalley had 18 saves for Grand Haven, Jordan Klaassen, Veltman and Hibbard had two assists apiece.
Ulfsax, Cottrell, Hibbard and Veltman joined East Kentwood’s Kevin Seo and Portage Central’s Matt Schuen on the Konrad All-Tournament team. Portage Central won the consolation game earlier in the day, defeating East Kentwood, 4-3.