By Steve Gunn
MUSKEGON – Usually there’s not much to celebrate after a tie.
But the Reeths-Puffer hockey team’s 4-4 deadlock with Novi Saturday at L.C. Walker Arena sort of had the feel of a victory.
On Friday the Rockets looked pretty awful, losing to Northville by six goals in the first of two weekend games against metro Detroit teams.
On Saturday they jumped out to a two-goal lead, but found themselves trailing by a goal in the final minute of regulation.
But the Rockets never quit, and their efforts paid off when Nate Sullivan scored a short-handed goal with 44 seconds left in the third period, forcing overtime and the eventual tie.
For a young team playing an established state power, the outcome was impressive.
“I just told them, there are only so many times in your career that you can score a goal in the final seconds to tie a game, let alone when you’re short-handed,” said Reeths-Puffer Coach Eric Sikkenga, whose team is now 2-5-1 on the season.
“They showed a lot of character and put in a lot of grind work today. I’m really proud of their effort.”
If there was a hero for Reeths-Puffer besides Sullivan, it was junior goalie Colton Koopman, who had a terrible game on Friday, but rebounded to make 43 big saves on Saturday.
Novi outshot Reeths-Puffer 47-22, including 8-2 in the scoreless overtime period.
“His game awareness was good, he made big saves when he had to, he held the rebounds, and his puck play was very positive today,” Sikkenga said about Koopman. ‘He limited their opportunities by the way he played the puck.”
The Rockets drew first blood at 6:14 of the first period when Logan Homfeld tapped in a loose puck in front of the net for a power play goal. Assists went to Collin Powers and Max Schaab.
Novi tied the game 1-1 just over a minute later with a goal by Zach Perpich.
Reeths-Puffer went back on top at 12:05 of the first period when Riley Trautner made a beautiful centering pass from the right circle to Connor McEvoy, who scored on a high shot from close range.
The Rockets made it 3-1 with another power play goal at 15:19, when Sullivan popped in a rebound for his first goal of the game.
Powers and Schaab notched their second assists of the game on the goal.
Novi applied heavy pressure in the second period, outshooting Reeths-Puffer 19-3. It paid off when the Wildcats got two quick goals near the end of the period, from Brandon Kour with 1:12 remaining and another from Perpich with 1.3 seconds left.
The game was tied 3-3 at the second intermission.
Reeths-Puffer was plagued with penalties in the third period, including two concurrent infractions less than a minute into the period that gave Novi a two-man advantage.
The Wildcats cashed in less than a minute later to take a 4-3 lead, which held up until Sullivan’s final heroics.
Sullivan’s goal followed a Reeths-Puffer penalty. The Rockets gambled by pulling their goalie to maintain an even number of attackers.