BY DAN STICKRADT
MACOMB — Revenge can be ever so sweet. Even sweeter in the state tournament.
Rochester United has chance to avenge its postseason death of a year ago Thursday night and seized it, as second-ranked United skated to a 4-1 victory over host and 12th-ranked Macomb Dakota in a Division 1 regional semifinal at Suburban Ice-Macomb Arena.
Dakota edged Rochester 4-3 in overtime a year ago in a pre-regional contest and the two tied three weeks ago, 4-4.
Marshall Bowery and Max Harper were electric again on the ice for United this time around, combining for three goals and four assists in the win, which vaults Rochester into Saturday’s 6:15 p.m. regional final at The Onyx against OAA Red Division rival Lake Orion.
Bowery netted a goal and an assist and Harper had two goals and two assists — but more importantly kept constant pressure on Dakota’s defense the whole night. Harper has 64 points and Bowery 59 points on the year.
“They are, without a doubt, two of the best juniors in the state,” noted RU coach Craig Staskowski. “They are two of the best, unnoticed juniors in the state.”
Dakota (15-10-3) took full notice of the talented duo and Rochester’s whole team. The Cougars simply couldn’t slow down United, which is having its best season to date.
“We were aware of them,” said Dakota coach Mike Jakubik. “They are very fast, handle the puck well and they can create. We knew we had to (defend) them.”
Bowery staked Rochester (21-3-3) to the 1-0 lead just five minutes into the contest, as he beat Dakota netminder Adam Bryant to the near side. Harper picked up the assist.
Dakota tied it up with 11:45 to play in the first, when Matthew Pellerito knocked in a shot following passes from Vasil Vidovski and Vaughn Treppa.
Rochester never trailed and scored one goal in the second period and two more in the third to finish off the Cougars.
Brendan Pahlow scored what proved to be the game winner with 2:41 left in the second period, as his long slapshot following a pass from Frank Scheff sailed through traffic and into the net.
Harper upped the lead to 3-1 only 19 ticks into the third frame to give United some breathing room, as his shot from the corner found the back of the net. The goal came courtesy of Bowery.
United capped the scoring with 31 seconds left in the contest when Harper blasted a shot into the open net. Graham Day set up the marker.
“I think, with this team, there is a sense of brotherhood,” said Stakowski. “Sure, they remembered the loss last year. We even had a Tweet from a player on last year’s team whose last game was the loss. Even a year later, it bothered him. So we had motivation from that loss. We play so well together, play for each other.”
Kyler Patenaude collected the win in goal for United, making 23 saves. Bryant made 28 saves for Dakota.
After giving up eight goals in the last two meetings with Dakota, United buckled down on the defensive end and between the pipes to stymie the Cougars.
“He made some great saves in goal tonight,” said Staskowski. “We have three good goalie’s and the decision was tough. But Kyler was playing a little better than the other two in February so we decided to go with him for the tournament. He was brilliant. He made a couple of great saves, just as he did the other night against (Utica) Eisenhower. It’s been said before that a team can make a run if they have a hot goaltender. I think we have that.”
In the last meeting, RU gave up three power play goals.
“We knew that if we stayed disciplined enough that we stood a good chance to win,” said Staskowski.