EAST ALTON — The Alton Redbirds improved to 9-2 Tuesday, blasting the Triad Knights 7-2 at the East Alton Ice Arena.
It was the second meeting between the Redbirds and the Knights this season. The MVCHA 2A teams battled on Dec. 4 with Triad winning 6-4 after being tied 4-4 in the final minute of regulation.
"I thought tonight was going to go our way," said Alton head coach Abram Henson. "They (Triad) played a very similar game to the first time we faced them and we were able to just step it up. This was a very good game for us. When we played them earlier in the season, we were tied up to the last minute and they were able to put the puck past us to take the lead. We pulled our goaltender to put an extra man on the ice and they were able to get an empty netter. The scoreboard didn't show how tight the game was."
Along with seeking redemption from the previous loss to Triad, the Redbirds had a piece of their heart on the ice as they remembered a fallen teammate who passed away in a car accident on Dec. 23, 2012. A moment of silence prior to the start of the game and camo tape was worn by the players on the ice in remembrance of Jordan Klope, who would have been a senior in the 2014-2015 season. Fans, family and friends wore camo clothing to honor Klope who enjoyed shooting trap and hunting.
"At noon today, the boys went to the crash site and laid a wreath," said Henson. "They've been in remembrance all day for Jordan. Today they wanted to pay their respects and lay their flowers together as a team. They came into this game tonight knowing what day it was. Jordan is always with the team. All the guys used camo colored tape tonight to honor Jordan and keep him close."
Starting off the offense was Alton senior Alex Rubin with an unassisted shot at 9:48 in the first quarter to put the Redbirds up 1-0. The pace remained with the Redbirds as senior forward Jake Cunningham took a pass just 26 seconds later from Rubin to put Alton up 2-0 over the Knights as Cunningham found the back of the net.
The first quarter offense was owned by the Redbirds as Rubin buried his second unassisted goal with just 32.6 remaining before the buzzer.
"It's all about moving the feet without the puck," said Alton senior captain Kain Henson. "Our forwards are really getting open now and moving so we can see them more on defense and get the puck to them in the zone. Our forwards are working really well with each other and taking better shots. Rubin was really hot tonight, he definitely had a hot stick."
The Knights got on the scoreboard early in the second period when junior forward Harrison Mohesky found the back of the net from a pass off of the stick of junior forward Kyle Kowalski at 12:23, cutting it to 3-1.
Alton didn't wait long to answer when Henson and junior Scotty Waldrup teamed up to find senior Brendan Lowe in front of the Knights' net to bury the puck to extend the Redbirds lead at 10:49. Henson earned his second assist of the game while giving Rubin a hat trick at 6:45 to give Alton a 5-1 advantage at the end of the second period.
The Redbirds were first to strike in the third period as senior Ben Drake took a rare scoring opportunity to extend Alton's lead to 6-1 off Rubins second assist of the game at 11:44.
Triad came back at 9:25 with a shot by sophomore forward Michael Cortivo assisted by senior Adam Kuebel to bring the score to 6-2, proving to be the final offensive drive for the Knights.
Alton left one last thrill for the fans when Rubin scored his fourth goal of the game off assists from Cunningham and Tanner St. Peters to seal the victory with a final score of 7-2 for the Redbirds.
"I'm really impressed with our offense tonight, we've been playing a lot better," said Cunningham. "We all stepped up and were ready for this game. I think remembering Jordan Klope today as a team really helped us psych it up for tonight."
Rubin finished the night with four goals and two assists for the Redbirds, while Cunningham had one goal and one assist. Henson would cross over from defense to add two assists on the night.
"I'm proud of all the guys tonight and the way they played," said Abram Henson. "Guys like Drake and Henson are a force whether they're on offense or defense. Rubin is a leader and a real goal scorer. Tonight he just really moved his feet. He played to his potential."
Teamwork is the mindset of the Redbirds and finding each other on the ice is the key to their success.
"I've been able to connect with guys like Cunningham, Henson and Lang up there, things are working," Rubin said. "We got off a little slow against Triad in that first game, but tonight we just clicked. We were all where we needed to be and it worked. Tonight does feel like a redemption for us, it feels great to get the win on a night like this. We're all thinking about Jordan so this gives us a good feeling while remembering him. We approached this game tonight with a purpose and if we play like this all season long, we will have success."
The Redbirds have a week to prepare for the rival match up against the Edwardsville Tigers. The Redbirds fell to the first place Tigers 5-0 on Dec. 11. The Tigers remain undefeated in the MVCHA 2A North Division. Alton plays EHS in the “Rival Day” game on New Year's Day at 7 p.m. at the East Alton Ice Arena.
Triad's next matchup is on Dec. 29 at 10:05 p.m. against Collinsville at EIA.