FRASER, Mich. — Two months to the day. It was two months since the De La Salle Collegiate had last tasted victory.
Needless to say, when sophomore Robert Vanderdonck beat Grosse Pointe North goalie Brian Clogg to the puck - and subsequently to the goal - netting the game-winner in the Pilots' 6-5 overtime victory Wednesday night, it was so, so sweet.
The taste of victory that is.
Having squandered a two-goal lead over the final five minutes of regulation and starting the overtime period with a man in the penalty box, things looked bleak for De La Salle. But just over a minute into the extra session, the Pilots cleared the puck down the ice. Seconds later, Vanderdonck found himself in a one-on-one race to the puck with Clogg. Vanderdonck won that race, made a move, and shot in on an empty net to give his team the win. It snapped De La Salle's 13-game losing streak.
"Obviously he was going to be slow, so I just beat him to the puck," Vanderdonck said. "I moved it from one side to the left, from my backhand to my forehand so I didn't screw anything up."
The entire team swarmed Vanderdonck, celebrating the long-awaited win.
But the victory almost did not happen. The Pilots blew a pair of two-goal leads in the game. And it looked like they might just let another one slip away.
De La Salle built a 3-1 lead after one period - all thanks to juniors Avery Petri and Gavin Milne. Petri scored the first goal of the game, just two minutes in, and then tacked on two more in a span of 6.2 seconds late in the first period to notch a hat trick. Milne picked up the lone assist on all three goals.
"It was kind of cool. After I scored that first goal, (coach Nick) Stefani told me to go get another one. Then when I got the second, he told me to go get another one," Petri said. "Thanks to Teagan (Fuqua), who drew up a good play off the draw, told me to go forward and pushed it up to Milne, who passed it over to me and I went down and scored."
The lead was short-lived, however, as North scored twice in the first 1:26 of the second period to tie the game at 3-3. The first came off a DLS giveaway, with William Weiss finishing it off to cut the lead to one goal. Then, just 27 seconds later, the Pilots were unable to clear the puck in front of the goal. GPN junior Ethan McCormick scooped it up and found teammate Dylan Holman, who tied the game up.
De La Salle did bounce back. Milne gave his team a 4-3 lead, taking a breakaway pass from senior Nicholas Twombley and beating Clogg. Then, with just 58.6 seconds left in the second period, senior Matthew Rodgers scored far post to give his team its second two-goal cushion of the game. Sophomore Jack Rivera picked up the assist on the goal.
Along with it snapping a long losing streak, the win also helped avenge a 5-3 loss to the Norsemen back on Jan. 4. It was also the Pilots' first victory in MIHL play this season. Petri said it couldn't have come at a better time, as the playoffs are just a few weeks away.
"We were on a long losing streak and it was killing us, mentally," Petri said. "But the boys have been working hard in practice, trying to get everything together, trying to get our heads back in the game. This is going to help us a ton and help us get excited heading into the next game (against Liggett). Hopefully, we can play well and pick up another win."
That next game against the Knights will be played today as part of the MIHL Showcase at the Kennedy Ice Arena in Trenton. The puck will drop at 5:20 p.m. The Pilots will then face Hancock on Saturday morning (8:40 a.m.) back in Trenton. Their next league game will be on Feb. 12, against the top-ranked team in Division 1, Detroit Catholic Central, on the road.