by Jared Hines
Contributing Sports Writer
Late in the second period of the Jan. 5 game between Rogers and St. Michael-Albertville, Justin Grudem scored a goal to put the Royals hockey team up 3-1 against the rival Knights.
The upset was in the making, and with just one period left, the Royals held the 2-goal lead and all the momentum. The win would turn the season around for the struggling Royals, while a loss would push the team to its sixth loss in its last seven games.
The Knights comeback began 4:27 into the third period when Ryan Copeland found Cody Kelly, who put the puck past Royals goalie Nathaniel Johnston to make it 3-2 in favor of the Royals. Just halfway into the period, Jordan Drobinski tied it and at 11:24 into the third period, Carson Wooters gave the Knights the lead off an assist from leading scorer Mitch Bourgerie.
“Unfortunate to say the least,” Royals skater Josh Bridell said. Bridell wasn’t able to be play in the game, battling the flu bug that has affected many of the Royals skaters throughout the last couple of weeks.
The fourth unanswered goal from the Knights came with just under three minutes to go in the game, with Blake Spetz giving the Knights the 2-goal lead that the Royals had just one period prior. Royals’ Jordan Fischer scored a goal with just over a minute left in the game, but it was too little, too late for the Royals squad that exited the ice with their heads down and thinking what could have been.
Five different Knights scored the team’s five goals in the victory, with six different skaters earning assists. STMA moved to 9-1-1 on the year with the victory, including a 2-1 record in the Mississippi 8 conference.
“At least we get another shot at them this year,” Bridell said.
Members of the Royals couldn’t hold their heads down for too long, though, as Monticello/Annandale/Maple Lake (MAML) made their way to the Rogers Activity Center two days later for another conference matchup that the Royals desperately needed. Unlike the game against the Knights, this time the Royals never led, falling 0-3 against MAML before Jake Moss scored two third-period goals to try and bring the Royals back. Ben Ward, Jack Saunders, and Nick Zwack scored the goals for MAML, while the team out shot the Royals 31-21. Jordan Fischer had two assists in the loss, No. 11 and 12 of the year while Moss’ goals were his fourth and fifth of his year. The two lead the Royals with 23 (Fischer) and 22 (Moss) points.
Rogers is 5-8 on the season and 2-3 in the conference after the losses to St. Michael-Albertville and MAML. The team started 4-1, winning just one game since Dec. 13. Rogers looks to get back on track on Jan. 12 when the team takes on the Tigers from Princeton. The Tigers are 6-3-1 this season.