By JAMES COOK email@example.com
Traverse City Record-Eagle
---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Zach Hill has scored 24 goals this season.
And none bigger than Tuesday's overtime game-winner to propel the Bay Reps to a 5-4 Division 1 regional victory over Traverse City West at Howe Arena.
Hill converted a pass from Nate Wilson for the game-winner 49 seconds into the extra session. It was Wilson's fourth point of the game and Hill's third.
"The puck rolled up my stick," Hill said. "And I got a lucky bounce with the puck going in off my upper stick."
"That was a great play by Hill," West coach Jeremy Rintala said. "I believe he knocked that puck out of the air on the rebound. He's a great player."
With the win, the Reps — who are riding a four-game winning streak — are at .500 for the first time since they started 1-1 in November.
"I'm very proud of the boys — down 4-2 after two periods, we could have quit pretty easily," Bay Reps coach Todd Spaulding said. "There's some big hearts there and they weren't going to go down easy."
The game wasn't without some controversy, however. A TC West goal with 1:44 left in regulation was waived off.
"I saw a puck sitting in the back of the net that later was decided that they had the intent to blow the whistle," Rintala said. "It is what it is. We tried to move on from that. It's disappointing. (The referee) said he didn't see it go into the net. He said the puck was in the net, but he didn't see it go in, so he can't make a call whether it was a goal or not. He didn't want to essentially end the game on something he didn't actually see go in."
Titans captain Max Jenner pleaded with the referees to no avail as they conferred. "I saw the puck and it went across the line," he said.
The score was wiped off the board by the refs after a long delay and discussion.
Down 4-2, a Trevor Apsey shot from the point 13 seconds into the third period pulled the Reps (13-13) within a goal at 4-3. Wilson and Nick Sicinski drew assists.
"It was a really nice pass and I was wide open and shot it," Apsey said. "I was trying to shoot it high. He went down."
The Reps drew even when Sicinski roofed a pass out front from Hill with 7:11 remaining.
"My hat's off to those guys," Spaulding said, motioning to the West locker room. "They played a tough game. A lot of great kids over there. I feel for all the seniors over there, but I'm happy for my kids to come back the way they did."
After a scoreless first period in which they combined for only seven shots on goal, both teams were able to ramp up the offense in the second.
Nick Schultz converted a perfect Collin Peters cross-ice pass through two defenders into a 4-2 lead on his 17th birthday for his 17th point of the season with 6:22 left in the second.
Peters scored his third goal of the season three minutes earlier to put the Titans up 3-2 after Jeff Linenger had knotted up the contest 2-2 on a hard slapshot assisted by Jake Saxton.
Wilson scored the game's first goal in the second period's second minute off a Hill set up, but the Titans pulled back even on a Saxton goal where the sophomore picked the top left corner two minutes later.
The hard-hitting first period was highlighted by even play and several big hits by Apsey, who was double shifted with the Reps' loss of Josh Hill from their defense ranks.
"Dakota Derrer, she never gets the accolades she should, being a girl, but she's tough as nails," Spaulding said of the junior defender. "She really played well. She sticks her nose in there and will do anything for this hockey team. She's a gamer."
The Reps travel Thursday to Muskegon Reeths-Puffer — which defeated Manistee 5-2 Tuesday — for a 6 p.m. matchup.
Edmondson ended with 22 saves and the Reps' Jay Jones had 17.
The teams split their regular-season series 1-1, with West winning a Dec. 12 matchup 4-2 and the Reps claiming a Dec. 29 victory 3-2.
West finishes the season 9-14-3 with a very young team that featured 10 underclassmen and three juniors.
"They've had outstanding attitudes all season and I've very proud of how far they've come," Rintala said. "If this group of underclassmen sticks together for a couple years, we'll be a good team."
West was down two skaters, as Trevor Franklin sat out with a concussion and John Linenger remains in the hospital after suffering a brusied spleen and internal bleeding in Thursday's game against Sault Ste. Marie.
"It's a good lesson for us all," Rintala said. "This team has been through a lot this year with multiple teammates in the hospital and one in there tonight. Johnny is a big part of our team and I knew it was going to be a difficult task without him."
The Reps were also down two skaters, missing defender Josh Hill and forward R.J. Deneweth.