EAST ALTON — The Mississippi Valley Club Hockey Association (MVCHA) playoff season is in full swing at the East Alton Ice Arena. The Alton Redbirds returned to the ice on Monday and tied the series 1-1 with the Collinsville Kahoks with a 7-3 victory.
The Redbirds entered Monday's game down 1-0 after suffering a surprising 6-5 loss last Thursday in a best-of-three series against the Kahoks. Having almost two weeks off the ice before the Redbirds entered playoffs, Alton head coach Abrahm Henson felt his team didn't play up to their abilities and knew Monday's game was a do-or-die scenario.
"The boys realized that whole last game was just mistakes," Henson said. "Tonight was do-or-die and so is our next game against Collinsville next Monday. We came ready to play tonight. We went over the basic stuff in the locker room before the game and we played like we were ready. If our guys play their game, they will win. There is no doubt in my mind. We're a good team, the guys work hard and they deserve it."
Alton set the tone early taking a 3-0 lead over the Kahoks in the first period of action. Redbirds' assistant captain Alex Rubin and senior forward Brendan Lowe found Scotty Waldrup open in front of the Kahoks goal to get Alton on the board at 11:47.
Lowe kept the action going for the Redbirds when he took a pass from captain Kain Henson to double up the score at 9:20 to give Alton a 2-0 lead.
Waldrup took a lone shot at the Kahoks with 2:40 left in the first period to give the Redbirds a 3-0 lead at the buzzer.
"Tonight we were really putting it together as a team," Rubin said. "Everyone was passing the puck better and no one was selfish with the puck, we worked as a team. We got back where we were playing the game we needed to play to beat these guys (Kahoks)."
The Redbirds didn't slow down with the 3-0 lead, adding three more goals in the second period.
Assistant captain Jake Cunningham found the back of the net for Alton off a pass from Rubin at 5:49. The Kahoks then found themselves a man down when Nick Hagar was sent to the penalty box at 3:10, charged with a cross-check. Alton capitalized on the powerplay when junior defensman Ben Drake sent the puck to senior forward Jake Bohn to bury the shot at 2:28 making it 5-0 for the Redbirds.
Rubin didn't waste any time to raise the bar one more notch for the Birds when he sent a solo shot over the glove of Collinsville goaltender Caleb Nowicki at 2:06 to extend a 6-0 lead over the Kahoks.
Collinsville regrouped at the start of the third period to stage a comeback and take advantage of powerplay opportunities.
Alton sophomore Tanner St. Peters took a seat in the penalty box at 12:00 on a hooking call, giving the Kahoks a five-on-four advantage. Alton's Henson took a minor penalty at 11:02 to bump the odds to a Kahoks' five-on-three.
Collinsville forward Cory Sperry took advantage, accepting a pass from defenseman Jacob Scrum to find the back of the Alton net to get the Kahoks on the board at 10:49. The goal from Sperry put an end to St. Peters' penalty, but left Henson in the box for the Redbirds.
Jason Sperry then took a pass from brother Cory Sperry to bury the puck on the Henson powerplay at 9:36 and bring the score to 6-2 while ending Henson's penalty.
"We took a couple of penalties that we shouldn't have and they hurt us a little bit," Rubin said. "We took that timeout and gathered ourselves and got our heads going in the right direction again. Hopefully we can play our game like this next week and move on to Edwardsville in the next round."
Collinsville forward Kalib Carlyle received a pass from forward Scott Ledford and Jared Drake to cut the Redbirds lead in half at 6-3 at the 6:07 mark.
The Redbirds scored one last goal at 1:48 with a solo shot from Cunningham to seal the final score at 7-3 and tie the series at 1-1.
"We have a long week to think about this game and make adjustments," Collinsville head coach Matt Bednara said. "We need to work on some things and hopefully we can play next week like we did in the first game and also like how we played in the third period tonight. We have to be responsible in our own end. Not just for our defense, but our forwards as well. Alton is a fast team, we can't chase them around, if we chase them, they're going to put it in the net."
Alton and Collinsville face off in a final of the best-of-three series with the winner advancing to play first place Edwardsville in the 2A North Division finals. Game time is 7:15 p.m. Monday at the East Alton Ice Arena. The first game of the 2A North Division finals will take place at 7:15 p.m. Tuesday at the EAIA.