Golden Grizzlies Game of the Week: Ice Hockey vs. Central Oklahoma

By Web Master

By JOE GUZMAN

Staff Reporter

With its 4-1 win over the No.12 ranked University of Central Oklahoma Broncos (10-7-2 DI, 14-7-2 overall) on Friday night, the Oakland University Golden Grizzlies hockey club (8-7-3 DI, 8-8-4 overall) accomplished two achievements that were  long overdue.

The win, led by goaltending by freshman Alex Pikunas, brought the team’s overall record to one game over .500 for the first time all season. The team also broke a streak of nine consecutive power play opportunities in which they failed to score after taking a 2-0 lead on Jarret Samp’s second period goal.

OU head coach Sean Hogan was happy to get the monkey off his back, but noted that there was still work to be done on the power play.

“It was good to score early on the power play, but we still have a lot of room for improvement,” Hogan said. “We have a real tough time breaking out of our zone. We just have to keep continuing to work on it game by game, practice to practice, until it gets better.”

Pikunas was in top form from the first drop of the puck, as the bigger and more aggressive UCO Broncos peppered him early and often. He made several key saves throughout the game when pressure was applied by the two-man forecheck.

He said after the game that weak first periods have been his downfall all season, something he worked on during break.

“Over break and this week, I just treated every practice like it was a game situation, and have just been refocusing and it worked pretty good today,” Pikunas said.

Among his 22 saves, Pikunas followed a sprawling puck with his blocker by stopping a two-on-one caused by a poorly-timed line change by OU, early in the second period. 

“He played great,” Hogan said. “He looked ready to go from the beginning; it was probably his best game of the year.”

Despite the few breakdowns, the defense kept traffic away from their goalie, unclogging lanes to enable him to see shots clearly.

“I have to give a lot of credit to my defense,” said Pikunas. “They’re really good at communicating, they played great today, I just can’t say enough.”

OU gained a 1-0 lead in the first, on junior forward Cody Austin’s first of two points of the night, when he streaked passed a back-checking defender just inside the blue line, sliding the puck between the goalie’s legs.

The team would capitalize once more with the man advantage when Austin received the puck on the doorstep of UCO’s goal, and jammed it home for his second of the game at 12:01 of the second period.  UCO would make it 3-1 on a power play goal of its own three minutes later.

OU junior forward Brett Haugh would score the lone goal of the third period, when a turnover at the Golden Grizzlies’ blue line caused a four on two. As Haugh trailed on the play, he received the drop pass directly in front of the net, having to chop at the puck a couple times before knocking it past the Broncos goaltender.

The win ensures at least a split of the two-game series between UCO, as OU continues to compete for a spot in the national tournament two months from now.