BY DAN STICKRADT
ROCHESTER HILLS — When it comes to two equally matched teams that know each other almost too well, a contest often goes to implementing a game plan and executing it.
Rochester Stoney Creek’s game plan was to limit Troy Athens’ high-scoring Max Klitzke and make sure than no other Red Hawks became an eminent threat.
Stoney Creek outshot Athens 13-11, including 9-4 with shots on frame, and rarely allowed Athens to penetrate the defense in the second half. The Cougars also held a 5-2 edge on cornerkicks and eventually wore down Athens for a 1-0 shutout in a Division 1 district semifinal at Rochester.
The fourth-ranked Cougars (14-2-7) advanced to Saturday’s 1 p.m. district final, also at Rochester, to face Rochester Adams, a 1-0 upset winner Thursday over ninth-ranked Utica Eisenhower.
It doesn’t matter who the Cougars face next.
“It doesn’t matter because every team in our district in very good. It could be anybody playing Saturday and we’re fortunate enough to still be playing,” offered Stoney Creek coach Adam Bican.
Stoney Creek reached the district title bout by simply shut down the Red Hawks’ high powered offense that led Athens to a 6-0-1 league record and the OAA Red Division title this season. Stoney Creek finished third in the eight-school OAA-Red.
“You don’t form your entire game plan on stopping (Klitzke), but you do put one of your best defenders on him and shadow him with another guy,” admitted Stoney Creek coach Adam Bican. “I thought our defense did a great job of always keeping in front of their forwards. We didn’t give them many shots and Klitzke and one shot the whole game.
Stoney Creek scored the only goal in the sixth minute. Stephen Johnston converted a feed from Adam Anderson with 34:06 left in the first half and Matt Houghton notched four saves for the shutout, his team’s ninth of the season.
The Cougars had ample chances to add onto the lead, although Athens goalkeeper Brett Schmitz kept the Red Hawks (13-5-2) within striking distance. Schmitz finished with eight saves, including stopping three second-half breakaways.
Athens coach Todd Heugh said there were many factors leading to the Red Hawks’ demise. He felt his team played a little flat after dominating Utica Monday in the pre-district contest, which the Red Hawks won 4-0.
“I thought we were (flat) and to be honest, I thought the whole first half the game lacked energy, both teams” offered Heugh. “In the second half they just outplayed us.
“It’s rough for them now. But you look back at the past two years and we were a combined 29-9-4,” continued Heugh. “That’s something to be proud of and once they look back on that, I’m sure they will realize that. Sure, last year we won a district and made a nice run to the regional finals. This year we won the league, which is always one of the toughest leagues in the state, but we didn’t win the district this group has nothing to be a shamed of even if we didn’t win the district this season.”
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