By Dave Tomczak
Local Sports Journal
MUSKEGON – Stan Konrad would probably have been proud of his former team.
Mona Shores’ hockey team buckled down and killed off a 5-minute power play late in the third period, then added an empty net goal for a 4-2 win over Portage Central in the 25th edition of the Konrad Memorial Tournament Saturday at the L.C. Walker Arena.
It is the sixth straight title for the host Sailors in a tournament named in honor of their former coach.
“It means a lot to win this (tournament),” Shores forward Alex Sturr said. “We have a lot of alumni and we have brothers who’ve played here and won it. It’s a nice feeling.”
Sturr sparked off the Sailors celebration with an empty net goal with just 1:20 left in the game, finishing off a tense final seven minutes for fans on both sides of the rink.
Tied 2-all heading into the third period, Mona Shores got a power play opportunity 6:30 in. Five seconds later, they led 3-2. The Sailors’ Sawyer Jensen won the face off and drew it back to CJ Meyers who fired a slapshot from the blue line past Mustangs goalie Colin Campbell.
Portage Central would be handed a golden opportunity to pull even when the Sailors’ Colin Rabach was called for a major penalty, giving the Mustangs a 5-on-4 advantage with seven minutes left to play.
Shores’ freshman goalie Tim McClain steered two shots away in the first minute of the power play before his defense clamped down and held PC to one more shot on goal in the next four minutes, including two extra attackers on offense in the final 33 seconds with the Mustangs net empty.
“Our guys never stopped believing they had a chance,” Mustangs coach Brian Bellware said. “We felt like we were a shot away the whole game, but I think fatigue set in a bit at the end.”
As the penalty ended, Sturr picked up a loose puck, dodged a stick slid on the ice in an attempt to knock the puck away, and scored into the empty net.
“I went down, got the puck, got my head up and figured I’d take it all the way,” the senior forward said. “Then I saw the stick and pushed the puck and saw it go under the stick and in – pretty exciting.”
The game had the feeling of a high scoring affair early on. Mona Shores took a 1-0 lead 11 minutes in, as Rabach took a few swipes at a rebound before getting it behind Campbell.
Three minutes later, the Mustangs’ John Hayward caught McClain off guard with a floater from the right circle that got over his shoulder and tied the game at 1-all.
With 3:20 still remaining in the opening period, Sam Curran found Chandler Mancuso in front of the net for a one-timer and a 2-1 lead.
While the first period was back-and-forth, the second period was ground to a slow crawl thanks to the teams combining for 10 penalties, five each. But it would be the last one of the period that sent the game to the intermission tied 2-2.
The Mustangs’ Jared Lutz, who recorded a hat-trick on Friday, broke free for a breakaway with 1:33 left in the period and was pulled down from behind on his way to the net. After a brief meeting, the official allowed Lutz a penalty shot. The junior forward carefully worked the puck back-and-forth before settling on his forehand and beat McClain for the tie.
“The referee paused, pondered, then made the right call,” Mona Shores coach Pat Rabbitt said. “I just told the guys we have to go back to work.”
That set up the final period in which the game would be saved by a freshman goalie and a suffocating defense for the Sailors.
“When you have five (penalty) minutes to kill, it comes down to just out working them,” Rabbitt said. “We realized we lost a lot of momentum at the end of the second period, but we dug deep.”
Both teams finished the game with 28 shots on goal, as McClain had 26 saves for Shores (5-4) and the Mustangs’ Campbell stopped 24.
2014 KONRAD MEMORIAL ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM
Mona Shores – Ben Essenberg (MVP); Alec Sturr; Cory Sander
Portage Central – Jared Lutz
Grand Haven – Jake Steggles
East Kentwood – Sherman Mowery