After a dismal start to the season in a 19-3 loss Reeths-Puffer last week, the Bucs are on track with back-to-back victories, including Tuesday’s 8-4 defeat of the Cougars.
“It was just time and practice,” said Grand Haven head coach Kyle Hitsman of the turnaround. “The kids knew after that game there was a sense of urgency. They kicked it up in practice and we powered through it.”
Kyle Bush was trophy hunting in the win, netting five goals to pace a now well-oiled Grand Haven offense.
“Kyle was dialed in today,” Hitsman said. “He was running the offense great today, we’re ecstatic about that. We weren’t dropping every pass we had and the kids are getting used to each other and flowing a little better. That is back to just more practice time.”
“I just felt the shot falling,” Bush said. “It was a good team win, we really came together today. We just ran the offense, and when it was coming to my side, the defense was just sliding slow, so I was getting open shots.”
Meanwhile, Trevor Holleman and the Buccaneer defensive unit locked down with the support of goalie Connor Russell, excelling on full-strength and man-down plays throughout the game.
“Our defense kept us in it today,” Hitsman said. “They played aggressive, solid defense for us, and that was the staple of the game. The kids we have in there are mostly seniors, with a couple of juniors. They have the knowledge and experience and are hard workers. They know their assignments and what to do, and it made the difference.
“We pulled up our freshman goalie, Connor Russell, for the last two games and he has been phenomenal for us. He is doing very well at varsity speed.
“Overall, we’re very pleased with what we did today.”
The Cougars found the net first, winning the opening faceoff and scoring on the first possession of the game.
Bush answered almost immediately, aided by crisp ball movement by his fellow attackmen. A drive from midfield down the left alley drew a sliding Catholic Central defender, allowing for a dish to Carter Prieditis behind the net, who swung the ball to Bush waiting just above the goal line, who flushed it to kick off the Bucs’ scoring.
Minutes later, Bush struck again on a man-up opportunity. This time, Bush started behind the net, creeping up to the goal line while passing off to Prieditis on the right side. Prieditis possessed just long enough to draw the eyes of the Cougar defense before dumping it back to Bush for a low-angle shot to the corner.
Next, it was the defense’s time to shine, as the Bucs sent one to the penalty box. The 6-on-5 was no problem, ending in a takeaway with 3:50 left in the opening quarter.
Dominick Jerosvek added to the Grand Haven lead to finish off the quarter, collecting a pass from Russell at midfield and squaring up from 10 yards above the goal for a snipe.
The 3-1 lead didn’t last long, as Bush was eager to pile on. Just 37 seconds into the second quarter Prieditis found his wingman again from behind the net, this time for a submarine shot past the Cougar keeper, complete with a bow and salute in celebration.
Both offenses would go quiet for a time until Bush was ready to fire again. With 5:36 left in the first half, Jerosvek assisted a long-range shot to the back of the net to push the Bucs’ lead to 5-1.
Catholic Central answered immediately to keep the game in check, cutting the lead to 5-2 at halftime.
The Cougars came out with spirit in the second half, netting a quick goal to cut the lead to just two points.
The Grand Haven defense avenged the goal with three minutes of sensational work, killing a pair of penalties to preserve the lead.
As if the penalty-kill weren’t enough, Holleman got involved on the next goal, securing a takeaway and running the field before dropping the ball off to Jerosvek for an assisted score.
Bush, not to be outdone, struck again less than a minute later on a screaming shot from the right side, assisted by Prieditis.
The flurry gave Grand Haven a 7-3 lead heading into the final frame. The Cougars would once again net the first goal of the quarter to try and make things interesting, but the Bucs’ dynamic duo struck again with 9:57 left to play to bring the game to its final tally.
This time, it was Prieditis on the scoring end, assisted by Bush from behind the cage.
“It feels pretty good,” Bush said of the win. “Everyone played well today. The defense came through and the offense came together. I feel like if we came back at Reeths-Puffer playing like this, it would be a show.”
The win improves Grand Haven’s record to 2-1 overall. They travel to Byron Center on Thursday before taking on Spring Lake to finish off Lax Fest at 7 p.m. Saturday.