By Alex Plough

MUSKEGON – The going gets tough in the state high school hockey tournament, and a good goalie can really come in handy.

The Reeths-Puffer hockey team was reminded of that on Thursday.

The Rockets jumped out to a 3-0 lead over the Traverse City Bay Reps, a team with players from seven schools in the TC area, in the first round of the Division 2 regional tournament at Mercy Health Arena.

Quinn Fowler pushes for the puck along the boards for Reeths-Puffer. Photo/Joe Lane

But Traverse City battled all the way to the end and pulled within a goal late in the contest. Reeths-Puffer goalie Nick Meyering kept his head, however, making several good saves down the stretch to preserve a 3-2 victory and allow the Rockets to advance to next Wednesday’s regional finals against Traverse City West.

Meyering registered 25 saves on 27 shots.

“Nick has been a quiet assassin this year, a quiet leader,” said Reeths-Puffer Coach Bill Zalba, whose team improved to 17-7-2 on the season. “Not much has been said about what he has done this year. He deserves this win more than anybody. He has stepped up and bailed us out of I don’t know how many games.”

R-P junior Matt Herniman opened the scoring 11:30 into the first period with an unassisted goal.  Senior captain Nolan Convertini added a goal with 3:49 left in the first, increasing the lead to 2-0, with assists from Herniman and Landon Patterson.

Reeths-Puffer’s Matt Herniman tries to get control of a rolling puck in front of the net. Photo/Joe Lane

The Rockets outshot the Bay Reps 11-5 in the first period. 

Convertini added another goal with 9:29 left in the second period, with assists from Herniman and Quinn Fowler, and Reeths-Puffer had a seemingly safe 3-0 lead.

But the R-P momentum waned as the game progressed. A Rocket penalty with 4:09 left in the second period led to a Bay Reps goal by Kaleb Miller just 25 seconds later.

Miller struck again with 2:43 left in regulation to make it 3-2, but Meyering stopped everything else thrown at him and preserved the victory.

The Rockets were scoreless in six power plays in the game.

“We knew they were a good team,” Convertini said. “We were gonna have to battle. We were gonna have to come out playing like we did the last two games before this. We knew we could forecheck them hard and that’s what we did. We ended up putting a few in the back of the net.”