One week after an exhibition game between the two teams, won by Motor City, the Rockers and Port Huron Prowlers faced off for real in the 2023-24 season opener at McMorran Place. As you'd expect, it took some time for both teams to get their legs under them, and Port Huron found theirs first jumping to a 2-0 lead. But the Rockers came out in the third period looking like a different team, completely dominated the final stanza to tie it up, then turned to a familiar face for overtime heroics.
The first period started out with four-on-four hockey due to a rule the FPHL is trying to enforce this year. Neither team was apparently off the ice in a timely enough fashion in the pregame skate, so each was assessed a bench minor for delay of game. Those were the only penalties of an otherwise rather uneventful first. Trevor Babin turned aside all twelve Prowlers shots sent his way, including a breakaway by Evan Foley, while his counterpart in net, Ian Wallace, stopped all ten Motor City shots.
Things remained scoreless in the second until rookie Brandon Picard picked the puck up near center ice, carried it into the Motor City zone and fired a laser over Babin's glove at 8:50 to put the Prowlers up 1-0. Matt Graham and Dalton Jay were given the assists on the play. Less than two minutes later the Prowlers struck again. After the Rockers were buzzing in the Port Huron zone, the Prowlers broke out on a four-on-one break that was snuffed, but Brad Reitter was unable to clear the puck from the zone, Jay regained control and fired it past Babin for the 2-0 lead at 10:25. The physicality started to pick up after that with Motor City twice going down a man, but they were able to kill both penalties off and keep the deficit at two goals after two. Wallace was again perfect in the period stopping all thirteen shots he faced.
Whatever was discussed in the locker room in the second intermission had the right effect as Motor City came out flying in the third. They put on tremendous pressure in the first couple minutes but Wallace continued to stand on his head, stopping everything thrown his way and it looked like it just might be his night. But the Motor City pressure took its toll on the Prowlers as a steady stream of penalties followed, giving the Rockers numerous opportunities to get back into the game on the powerplay. It finally paid off at 12:05 when Danny Vanderwiel crashed the net, was shoved into Wallace by a Port Huron defender, and Brad Reitter had a half open net to deposit the puck in for the first Rockers goal of the season. The powerplay paid off again at 15:24 on a beautiful display of passing. Josh Colten sent the puck over to Roman Gaudet who found Dante Suffredini all alone in the slot with a perfect feed and he ripped it past Wallace for the tying goal. In all, Motor City had five powerplays in the third period and out-shot Port Huron 16-3 in a completely dominating twenty minutes. Yes, they got a favorable whistle, but you still have to capitalize on your chances and they did just that.
That sent things to overtime and who else to clinch the win for Motor City but last season's leading goal scorer, and Prowler killer, Scott Coash. The rookie Picard, who opened the scoring, made a poor pass in his own zone looking for Austin Fetterly that was picked off at the blueline by Coash who skated in and made Port Huron pay with a perfect shot from inside the face-off circle past Wallace's blocker side. The unassisted goal gave Motor City the 3-2 overtime win and the celebration was on. The Rockers ended up out-shooting the Prowlers 42-24 in the game, the lopsided third period certainly went a long way to such a large discrepancy, but Wallace held Port Huron in as long as he could.
This was the first of eighteen contests between the Michigan rivals this season and they are right back at it tonight at McMorran Place. Face-off is slated for 6:05 as the Rockers try to come home taking five of a possible six points from opening weekend.