Late game heroics: VanDusen’s last second goal helps Alpena tie Country Day

VanDusen’s last second goal helps Alpena tie Country Day

News Photo by Jonny Zawacki Alpena’s Colby Plowman (3) skates around Detroit Country Day defenseman Michael Rosczewski (26) during a hockey game at the OCSportsplex in Gaylord on Friday.

GAYLORD–Famous secret agent James Bond once faced a villain known as the ‘Man with the Golden Gun.’

On Friday, Kyle VanDusen became the ‘Man with the Golden Stick.’

The Alpena High senior forward fired a shot past Detroit Country Day goalie and the reigning Mr. Hockey award recipient Sam Evola with 0.07 seconds left in regulation to help the Wildcats play the defending state champion Yellowjackets to a 1-1 tie at the OCSportsplex in Gaylord.

“Country Day was a quality team and they had us on our heels. I’d just describe it as a prize fight in a heavyweight match. We just kept finding a way to hold on and then we got the one final punch in at the end to tie it,” Alpena coach Chris Limback said. “It was just a fun game to be a part of today.”

With four seconds left on the clock, Anthony Berg sent a pass from the left corner of Evola to the slot and VanDusen came flying across the ice, wound up and put everything he had into his shot and didn’t miss as he sent the puck flying over the right shoulder of Evola and into the back of the net with 0.07 seconds remaining to send the Alpena bench into a frenzy.

“We were all tired and gave it out all in the final two minutes. We went hard after pucks in the corner and fortunately it worked out,” VanDusen said. “This was a huge confidence boost for our team. We feel we can skate with any team as long as we’re on our game.”

Country Day looked as good as advertised, putting pressure on Alpena goalie Cooper Black and the Wildcats much of the game. Black did his part putting together another stellar performance, keeping Alpena in the game despite being peppered with shots.

“Cooper has been that way all year and I don’t think that will change. He did a great job to keep us in the game and give us a chance and that’s all you can ask for,” Limback said. “It feels like a win against a quality team even though it is a tie.”

After two scoreless periods of we’ll-played hockey, the Yellowjackets finally snuck one past Black.

With 7:21 left in the game, Country Day defenseman Max Schilling sent a wrist shot toward the Alpena net from just inside the blue line and Joshua Rice got just enough of a deflection to redirect the puck through Black’s legs and the puck trickled in to break the scoreless tie.

After coming out strong in the opening period, the Wildcats were forced back on their heels for much of the final two periods, but the goal seemed to light a spark for Alpena and the Wildcats started playing a more aggressive style of hockey.

Country Day was called for a penalty with 2:08 left to play and the Wildcats went on the power play and had a man advantage the rest of the way.

Alpena was unable to create many opportunities early in the power play, but pulled Black with 28 seconds left in the game as VanDusen and the Wildcats skated the puck up the ice for one final attack.

Alpena sent the puck in the corner and battled. A short time later, the Wildcats were rewarded with VanDusen’s game-tying goal.

The matchup certainly lived up to the hype as both teams showed why they are among the top 10 teams in the state at Division 3.

Both goaltenders, Black and Evola were sharp and were impressive. Black had more work, stopping 23 of the 24 shots he faced and Evola turned away 13 of the 14 shots he faced.

Alpena is 7-1-1 on the year and returns to the ice today in Gaylord as it plays the FNV Griffins out of Saginaw at 4 p.m.