By David Dell
PORT HURON- Holiday weekend, atypically warmer weather, and a rival just down the road provided the largest Prowler Hockey crowd of the season. 1720 fans from Port Huron and Fraser came to see the Motor City Rockers and the Prowlers mix it up Friday night.
The animosity between the teams started right off the bat when Bryan Parsons of the Prowlers and Ross Bartlett of the Rockers both drew Unsportsmanlike Penalties just shy of a minute into game time. Parsons also picked up a Minor for Crosschecking. Fraser managed only one shot in the ensuing power play before Nicolas Magill-Diaz put the teams back to even strength with his Slashing minor. As Parson’s and Magill-Diaz’s penalties expired Joe Deveny (15th on the season) cleaned up the loose change in front of Motor City Rockers’ goalie Trevor Babin for the score. Deveny capitalized on a rebound from Larri Vartiainen and Dan Chartrand at 4:41. Twelve seconds later Rockers’ Tommy Cardinal found the back of the net to tie the game at 1 apiece. Port Huron’s Sam Marit (10th on the season) took the pass from behind the net by Austin Fetterly who stuffed it home back door. Dustin Henning also assisted on the play. Marit’s goal just 31 seconds later to reestablish a one-goal lead for Port Huron. 5:39 would run off the clock before Liam Freeborn (9th on the season) the 6’1 forward in his rookie year from Calgary Alberta bumped that lead to two goals. Freeborn floated in the slot and got a take away pass from Matt Graham to beat Fraser goalie Babin over the blocker. Babin had given up 3 goals on 4 shots faced at this point. Prowler net minder Wyatt Hoflin put up a stellar first period making key stops on some high potential shots until with just seven seconds remining when Tommy Cardinal sniped the net low far side from the top of the right face off circle, cutting the Prowler lead back to just one goal.
Port Huron came out hard in the second period, hitting Rockers’ goalie Babin for three quick shots before the wind was taken out of their sails as Tim Perks knotted the game at 3 all. Perks was assisted by former Prowlers Josh Colten and Jonathon Juliano at 2:40. The remainder of the period was punctuated with a flurry of minor penalties: Port Huron’s Frank Schumaker, Slashing. Sam Gagnon, Delay of Game. Joe Deveny, Unsportsmanlike Conduct. Matt Graham, Roughing. Fraser’s Dante Sufferdini, Slashing. Scott Coash, Head Contact. Scott Coash, Boarding. Ryan Rotundi, High Sticking. After 40 minutes of play Rockers had evened it up and held a 23-19 shots on goal differential.
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The final frame had the Prowlers coming on strong again dominating the offensive zone until 11:23 when former Prowler Juliano put up the go-ahead goal. Coach Matt Graham pulled Hoflin for the extra attacker at 18:52 but that led to an empty-net goal ad Colten beat a sliding Vartiainen for the red light. Hoflin was pulled again at 19:15 giving Port Huron one last push to try and get a pair to tie. Austin Fetterly (5th on the season) was fed at the blue line by Adam Heinzl who received a pass from behind the goal line by Joe Deveny with the extra attacker but with only 35 seconds left in regulation and Hoflin pulled for the 3rd time, the Prowlers couldn’t manage a shot. With this loss they fall back to 3rd in the Continental Division behind the Rockers with 41 and 43 points respectively.
Another Prowler milestone was reached last night as Head Coack/General Manager Forward Matt Graham recorded his 400th point. Graham’s point came on the assist to Liam Freeborn’s goal in the 1st period. Graham is only the 5th player in the Federal Prospects Hockey League to reach this level of achievement. Dalton Jay who also assisted on the Freeborn goal, kept his point streak going at 21 games.
Port Huron had a couple of Hall of Fame members in the house to watch as well. Angela Ruggiero, a four-time Olympic Medalist (1 Gold, 2 Silver, 1 Bronze) as well as a ten-time World Champion (4 Gold, 6 Silver), who is only the fourth woman, only the second American woman and first Californian born hockey player inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame (class of 2015) dropped the ceremonial puck to start the game.
Hall of Fame broadcaster Mike “Doc” Emrick who cut his teeth calling Port Huron Flags and Wings games starting in 1971, visited as well. Emerick is best known for being the voice of NBC’s NHL broadcast team as well as having done broadcast and play-by-play for play-by-play for CBS, ABC, TNT, ESPN, Fox, CSTV, SportsChannel America, SportsChannel Philadelphia, Prism and Fox Sports Net.
The teams meet up again Saturday afternoon of the second half of the Home and Home before Port Huron boards the bus for another neutral site game in Baton Rouge, Louisiana 2 January 2023. The Prowlers return home Saturday 14, January 2023.