BY DAN STICKRADT
CLARKSTON — Perhaps Clarkston is a bridesmaid no longer.
After falling prey to Troy Athens each of the past two years, including last year when the Wolves were second in the OAA Red Division behind the Red Hawks, Clarkston finally beat their rivals to the south with a 7-3 victory Monday.
Clarkston (5-2-0, 3-0-0) now has three league games left against Rochester Adams, Rochester Stoney Creek Farmington — and all three of those teams have at least one league loss.
“This kind of puts us in the driver’s seat,” said Clarkston coach Brian Kaminskas. “Athens was the league champion last year (and finished second two years ago) and they have beaten us the past several years. Beating them is a big deal.
“I know Athens graduated a great group of players and are not at the same level they were last year,” added Kaminskas. “We have almost our entire team back and all but one of our attackmen. We kind of feel that this should be our year. We’re the favorite now. It’s ours to lose.
“We have some big league games coming up,” continued Kaminskas. “I know Farmington is good this year and Adams and Stoney Creek were competitive last year, so we have a long ways to go.”
Clarkston earned the target on its back for the foreseeable future, taking an early lead and never relinquishing control.
Sam Moore scored in the first period to give the Wolves the lead, while Kevin O’Grady scored his first of four goals early in the second frame to help build a two-goal cushion.
Brad Leuenhagen and O’Grady scored later in the second quarter to up the advantage to four goals at the half.
Athens (5-5-0, 3-1-0) dented the Wolves lead midway through the third when Jake Spinek fired a shot into the back of the net, only to see Jordan Kincaid and O’Grady respond for a 6-1 lead and essentially put the Wolves in a comfort zone.
Athens’ Spinek and Dakota Badder scored for Athens late in the third quarter, which cut the deficit down to 6-3, while O’Grady polished off the scoring late in the contest to keep Clarkston unbeaten in league play. Travis Craft and Kincaid also picked up assists in the win for the Wolves.
“Even though Athens scored those two quick goals in the fourth quarter, I looked at my assistants and said that I wasn’t worried,” said Kaminskas.”We are a better team this year and I knew we could respond. We shut them down after that point.
“We have a lot of experience on this team,” said Kaminskas, whose team finished 18-2-0 last season and lost in the Division 1 regional finals to eventual state champion Birmingham Brother Rice. “
We felt that if we continued to pressure them that we would be fine. I think we have done a good job with that in all of our wins this season. In the games we lost, we didn’t put as much pressure on the other team’s defense as I would have hoped.”
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