It took a 14-hour bus ride and maybe, just maybe, the Motor City Hawks have found their swagger.
After a rough start to the 2015-2016 season that included an 11-game slide, the Hawks in their first term as a member of the new U.S. Premier Hockey League Midwest Division, seemed to have regained some footing at the Islanders Showcase — and against some tough competition.
To be sure, the Motor City crew came within a an overtime goal of a four-game sweep, going 3-0-1 in games on the weekend at Merrimack College and Skate 3 Ice Arena in Tyngsboro.
“It was a great weekend for our guys. Our young team became men in Massachusetts and showed they are now learning our system,” said Hawks head coach Jason McCrimmon, who enjoyed a homecoming of sorts, having played college hockey in the Bay State.
The long bus ride and a break down on the way, did not help the Hawks chances as they arrived very late Thursday night in anticipation of a 7:30 a.m. Friday opener against the Florida Eels.
But the MC boys ended up in overtime, winning a tough 2-1 shootout victory with Logan Wilt’s first Hawks goal and shootout tallies from Daniil Demidov and Andrew Baxter.
The sleepy team then braced for a Friday afternoon trip to Tyngsboro and a battle against the Frederick (MD) Freeze. The Hawks led throughout, on the strength of goals from Demidov, Baxter, Julian Willibey and Trevor Pode, and went away with a 4-2 win and an undefeated start to the weekend.
On Saturday, the Hawks again found themselves in overtime, but not without some heroics from Pode who scored with .03 seconds left to tie the game 2-2 after Baxter had given the Hawks an early lead against the Atlanta Junior Knights. But Motor City had its first defeat of the weekend when the Knights scored early in overtime and the Hawks then prepared for their final showcase battle against the USP3 South Division’s Carolina Eagles on Sunday.
Not to again disappoint those in attendance who love extra hockey, the Hawks found themselves in another overtime after goals from Alec Domin and Justin Session in regulation set the stage for Brenden Geertz’ shootout winner sending Motor City home with a very-successful weekend against some of the East Coast’s best Tier 3 talent.
Hawks owner-general manager Mark Gilman noted that goalies Jacob Vanderlee, Jacob Gorzelski and Ryan Budnick played exceptional hockey for MC throughout the showcase with “sterling regulation play and some incredible performances in shootouts.”
And as head coach, McCrimmon took away a lot from the weekend.
“It was a great bonding opportunity for us. There was no negative energy the whole weekend and we excelled in all areas, especially in goal and in our penalty killing, which was amazing. Our forwards put up numbers and we played much more controlled hockey,” said McCrimmon.