BY DAN STICKRADT
TROY — Wins have been hard to come by for Troy Athens and Auburn Hills Avondale out on the ice this season.
With young and inexperienced teams, the two sit in the bottom half of the OAA White Division standings this season.
The two battled to a 2-2 overtime tie Wednesday at the Troy Sports Center, the second draw between the two rivals this season, and the trend continued in terms of wins. As for making strides, the two have showed extensive improvement on the ice over the past 2.5 months.
“We haven’t had the greatest of months, so we made some changes a couple of days ago and implemented them for this game and I think that helped,” said Athens coach Joe Barone. “That being said, I am very pleased with how we played, having only an hour to really work on some of the things at practice with a (different lineup). We are better than we were at the beginning of the season and I think we will continue to improve. I think the changes we’ve made will help us (down the stretch).”
Avondale (4-9-4, 3-3-4) was hard-hit by graduation after finishing second in the league behind Berkley-Ferndale Unified last season. The Yellowjackets bolster a youth movement with a roster that includes two freshmen and six sophomores.
“We graduated eight (players) from last year’s team and with that 90 percent of our offense,” admitted Avondale coach Karl Daiek. “We have a lot of inexperience when it comes to the varsity level. We had some young kids that came over from house leagues and they have had to adapt to the faster pace of play and tougher competition. We are improving and getting better. We will bring back all but four of our players next season, so we are gaining plenty of experience this season
“Tonight, I think the game meant something because Athens has become one of our rivals,” added Daiek. “I think the boys like to skate a little longer when it’s Athens. Maybe that made us more tired in the end.”
Avondale skated to the 1-0 lead with 6:41 left in the first period, when Craig Zimmerman was left alone in front of the net and he tucked home the puck. Paul Mirani collected the helper on the goal.
Athens (4-11-3, 0-7-3) tied it up with 13:47 left in the second frame, this time with OAA goals and points leader Nathan Gurzell beating two defenders down the middle before slipping in a breakaway shot. It was Gurzell’s 31st tally of the campaign.
Avondale, which outshot Athens 23-22, went ahead a second time with 12:03 left in the second period, this time with Patrick Reidy scooping up the loose puck near the crease before slamming in the puck.
Athens retaliated with 8:35 remaining in the second stanza, this time with Ian Marchand backhanding a close-range shot in traffic. Gurzell sent a long pass towards the goal and Brad Merola was able to touch the puck over to Marchand.
“Maybe we were a little tired. But you have to look at the effort,” added Barone. “It’s not that there wasn’t effort late in the game. Both teams had some chances. I think we were just both evenly matched.”
Jeff Merola made 21 saves for Athens, while Nick Senkowski had 20 saves for Avondale.
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