Overtime’s overrated

Adam Kujawski

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The Oakland University Division I hockey club (21-15, 15-8) narrowly avoided an upset at the hands of Western Michigan (10-21-3, 8-14-2) in the first round of the Great Lakes Collegiate Hockey League Tournament on Friday night at the Onyx Ice Arena.

The Golden Grizzlies, seeded third in the tournament, defeated the sixth seed Stallions 6-5 behind an advantageous penalty kill and a late-game goal by OU junior forward Anthony Colizza.

“I hope we learned something from this,” OU head coach Gordie Schaeffler said. “You can’t take any team lightly.”

Entering the game, Oakland had won three of the four meetings on the season against WMU and led the Stallions in the all-time series by a record of 20-3-1.

OU junior forward Billy Balent got the scoring started for the Grizzlies on a mid-range wrist shot just over five minutes into the first period.

However, the goal was soon answered by Stallions sophomore forward Jesse Cameron. Oakland wouldn’t score again in the first, and watched as Western Michigan took a 3-1 lead into the first intermission.

OU tallied a quick second-period goal, but was down 4-2 before a penalty taken by Grizzly defenseman Cody Farber allowed Oakland to draw the game even in an unconventional manner.

Oakland forwards Patrick Smiatacz and Billy Kocher each scored a shorthanded goal during the same penalty kill, tying the game at four apiece.

The Stallions and Grizzlies traded one goal each throughout the remainder of the second period and headed to the locker room tied at 5-5.

“We’ve got to be prepared,” Schaeffler said. “It’s more of a mental game this time of year than a physical game.” 

The third period saw a shortage in scoring, where neither team could find the back of the net.

Overtime seemed imminent, until Colizza capitalized on perfect passing around the goal by Balent and senior forward David Merkle to net the game winner with 15 seconds remaining.

The Grizzlies advance to the second round of the GLCHL tournament and will face the No. 2 seed Davenport Panthers at 8:20 p.m. at the Onyx. OU has outscored rival Davenport 20-7 thus far this season.

“We have a formidable opponent tomorrow in Davenport,” Schaeffler said. “They’re going to be gunning for us since we’ve beat them four times already this year.”