The Eastside Stars put themselves into the driver’s seat on the way to the CAAC hockey title, breaking a first-place tie in the standings with an impressive 3-0 win over co-league-leader Okemos on Saturday.
Stars goalie Joe Barnard had 22 saves to record the shutout win, which left Eastside all alone atop the CAAC standings with four league games left.
Mike Flegal, Colin Emerson and Trace Woodworth scored for Eastside (9-1 in CAAC), which consists of players from East Lansing, Haslett, Williamston, Bath and Laingsburg.
Eastside coach Scott Crilly said that it was the best game his team has played this season.
“We got into a little penalty trouble, but we were able to kill them off,” Crilly said. “Five-on-five, we were tough.”
The Stars pressured Okemos from the start, keeping the puck in the Chiefs end for the first few minutes of the game, and that pressure was rewarded when Flegal opened the scoring just 2:15 into the game, assisted by Andy Petersmark.
Eastside kept the pressure on, nearly scoring twice more off of Okemos giveaways deep in the Chiefs’ end, the second of which was a shot off of the goal post by Sam Rathbun with 9:50 left in the first period.
Okemos (9-2) had a golden chance to tie the score when Eastside got into some of that penalty trouble late in the first period. The Chiefs had a brief 2-man advantage, came away empty, and were made to pay 35 seconds later when Emerson beat Okemos goalie Austin Holden with a first-timer that made the score 2-0 with 50 seconds left in the first. Woodworth and Jacob Schrote picked up assists on the goal.
Okemos coach Bill Sipola said that his team’s slow start may have been due to fatigue in this, the Chieftains’ third game in three days.
“I think we were a little tired, but I don’t want to make excuses,” Sipola said. “I don’t want to take anything away from Eastside, because the better team won today.”
Woodworth made the final score 3-0 with a wrist shot from the right face-off circle with 1:09 left in the second period, assisted by Schrote and Kaleb Eisenmann.
Crilly said that the league title, the team’s first since 2005-06 when they were the Haslett/Williamston Stars, is not in the bag just yet.
“We still have a couple of tough games. Anybody can upset anybody in this league, but if we come out like we did tonight, we have a pretty good chance.”