Boys Varsity Hockey · Royal Oak holds off Birmingham United’s late flurry, closes the calendar year with league win WITH PHOTO GALLERY (Oakland Press)

Game Info

Hockey – Boys – 12/21/2016

Royal Oak 6
Birmingham United 5

ROYAL OAK – The Royal Oak Ravens scored to break a 3-3 tie midway through the third period and then hung on through the remaining action to earn a 6-5 victory over the Birmingham United Kings in a key OAA White hockey battle Wednesday night.

With the game tied 3-3 midway through the third period, Grant Ybarra stepped into a slap shot from the top of the left circle, blasting it into the top corner for a 4-3 Royal Oak lead. Less than two minutes later, Ybarra scored again to make it 5-3, and the Ravens added another goal, this one from Owen Szarafinski who snuck a wrister through traffic with 5:45 to play, giving Royal Oak three goals in just under three and a half minutes and a 6-3 lead.

“I think where you win games is the third period, and that’s what we showed tonight,” Royal Oak head coach Craig Ward said.

Birmingham United pulled its goaltender with 4:27 to play and ground out two goals with the extra attacker – one with 4:11 to play and another with 49.3 seconds on the clock to provide a few nervous moments for the home fans.

But in the end, Royal Oak was just a little too good in the third period and hung on for the win.

“It’s hard to respond after going down three goals late in a hockey game,” Kings head coach Steve Kruk said. “I thought our guys fought back hard at the end, but a day late and a dollar short.”

The first two periods were also very tight as the teams traded goals and momentum with neither side able to get ahead by more than one goal and play shifting back and forth.

“It was good hockey. It was fun to watch,” Ward said. “Between us and them, it’s always a battle one way or another. Tonight was the same way. It was up and down, up and down until we captured the momentum at the end and kept going. But they pounded us back. They never gave up.”

Birmingham United was led by Matthew Bachand’s two goals on the night, while Matt Jackson and Jack Muir each had a goal and assist for the Kings.

“Matt Bachand was terrific. We juggled lines in between periods, and I thought in the second period the Alex Nader, Jaxson Bumbaugh, Matthew Bachand line was our best line. It’s good because you don’t necessarily expect goals from that line. But when they produce it’s huge for our hockey team,” Kruk said. “It was probably the best night of the year for them.”

Royal Oak was led by the play of captains Henry Gabriel and Grant Ybarra. Gabriel finished with a goal and two assists, while Ybarra played a stellar all-around game collecting two goals in the process.

“He (Grant) played phenomenal,” Ward said. “He had two goals, but more importantly his defensive zone coverage was tremendous and kept the puck in safe areas where they couldn’t score. That’s just as important as the goals. Up and down the ice, he probably played one of his better games of the year.”

With the win, Royal Oak improves to 7-2 overall and 2-0 in the OAA White. The Ravens have some time off before playing Riverview Gabriel Richard in a non-league contest after the New Year.

Birmingham United falls to 7-3 overall and 2-1 in OAA White. The Kings have now lost three straight after opening the year with seven consecutive wins. Birmingham United will look to get back in the win column Thursday night it plays a road game against Clarkston for another league tilt.