By Justin Haggerty

FRUITPORT TOWNSHIP – The Reeths-Puffer and Mona Shores hockey teams are both off to slow starts this season, which made Wednesday’s conference opener between the two squads even more important.LSJ Logo incert

But neither emerged with a much-needed win.

The Rockets entered the game with a 2-5-1 record while the Sailors posted a 2-6 mark. In the end, the teams were too evenly matched, resulting in a 3-3 tie in front of a standing-room-only crowd at Lakeshore Sports Centre.

“Everyone knows everyone and they know their tendencies,” R-P head coach Eric Sikkenga said about the rivalry between the two schools. “It’s first-name basis on the ice, so everybody knows what’s going on.”

Reeths-Puffer's No. 3 Cole Charlesworth closes in on Mona Shores goalie Anthony Shrum. Photo/Carol Cooper

Reeths-Puffer’s No. 3 Cole Charlesworth closes in on Mona Shores goalie Anthony Shrum. Photo/Carol Cooper

The Sailors seemed to control play out of the gate, but the R-P defense kept them in check and didn’t allow any open scoring chances.

Reeths-Puffer was awarded a penalty shot at the 5:40 mark of the first period, but Trevor Fowler was stoned by Sailors netminder Anthony Shrum, who made the save look easy.

The game remained scoreless for the first 16:15, then Reeths-Puffer senior Brody Vanderlinde beat a Mona Shores defender at the right wing faceoff dot and barreled in on Shrum, putting the Rockets up 1-0 with an assist from Connor McEvoy.

That momentum did not last, however. Just 1:25 into the second period, Mona Shores senior Connor Edlund beat the R-P defense on the goal line and lifted the puck past junior goalie Colton Koopman to tie the game 1-1.

Later in the second, the Rockets successfully killed a 5-on-3 Mona Shores power play that lasted nearly two minutes.

“We just didn’t get enough shots, the goalie made a really nice save on the 5-on-3, we just didn’t get enough pucks going to the net today,” said Mona Shores Coach Dan Quaine.

The Sailors scored just 27 seconds after their power play expired.

Edlund skated the puck down the boards to the goal line and centered to sophomore Matt Martin, who was waiting in the crease and chipped it into the net to give the Sailors a 2-1 lead. Zach Tilden got the second assist on the play.

“(Down 2-1) we were happy.,” Sikkenga said. “We had played really well at times, we just didn’t finish our shifts. We played relentless for 30 seconds and then took 15 seconds off.

Rocket forward Brody Vanderlinde takes the faceoff against Mona Shores' Matt Martin. Photo/Carol Cooper

Rocket forward Brody Vanderlinde takes the faceoff against Mona Shores’ Matt Martin. Photo/Carol Cooper

“We talked about that after the second period and how we were going to play 45 seconds shifts.”

Mona Shores kept the momentum entering the third period.

Just one minute into the period, with his team killing a penalty, Edlund stole the puck in his offensive zone and beat Koopman to put the Sailors up 3-1 with 16 minutes to play.

But the Rockets turned up the pressure on Shrum and the Sailor defense and escaped with the tie, thanks to junior Cole Charlesworth.

Charlesworth deked around the Sailor defense, worked his way between the faceoff circles and put the puck in the back of the net to pull the Rockets within 3-2 with 12-minutes to play.

It was Charlesworth’s first goal as a varsity player, and it didn’t take long for him to collect his second. He popped in a rebound of a Fowler shot to tie the game 3-3 with eight minutes remaining.

“That’s not the way we wanted it to end,” Quaine said about the Rocket comeback “We’re disappointed. We had a lot of turnovers, we didn’t execute our game plan today.

“Credit to them for bottling us up, but we’ve got to be better.”

Mona Shores put heavy pressure on Koopman at the end of regulation, but the teams ended up playing eight minutes of fruitless overtime.

The Rockets outshot Mona Shores 26-25.

Neither team’s special teams capitalized on opportunities. The Rockets were 0-for-5 on the power play while the Sailors finished 0-for-3.