EAST ALTON — The Alton Redbirds came out fast and furious Monday against the Collinsville Kahoks and skated to a 5-2 victory.
The win concluded the best-of-three series, propelling Alton into the MVCHA 2A North Division finals vs. top-seeded Edwardsville beginning at 7:15 p.m. Tuesday at the East Alton Ice Arena.
The Redbirds improved to 16-5 on the season with the win over Collinsville, while the Kahoks closed their first season in the 2A division at 7-14.
Alton didn't waste anytime on Monday, outshooting CHS 13-6 in the first quarter on its way to a lopsided 45-15 shot advantage for the game. The Birds led 2-0 after the first period and Alex Rubin scored the first goal of his hat trick in the opening 13 minutes.
“Knowing tomorrow is Edwardsville if we won, the kids came out fired up already,” Alton head coach Abram Henson said. “They were just ready to go. It's what you expect as a coach, especially in the playoffs and especially in an elimination situation. You expect everybody is going to come out and play with everything they've got and today the boys played very well from the beginning of the game to the end.”
Rubin knows he and his teammates can't come out complacent on Tuesday against a strong EHS squad which is 18-0 on the season and ready to play their first playoff game vs. Alton. That motivated the Birds to charge out of the gates Monday.
“We knew what was on the line for sure and we had to set the pace for tomorrow night and Edwardsville,” Rubin said. “We wanted to get our feet under us. We had practice earlier and went over a few things and we thought we really put them into action out there on the ice tonight and it obviously paid off.”
Alton bombarded Collinsville goalie Caleb Nowicki early and often, finally slipping the puck past him at the 6:36 mark of the first period. Jordan Myer flipped a pass across the front of the net to teammate Jake Bohn who was able to flick it past Nowicki before he could make the save.
Another goal came at the 4:05 mark when Rubin scored on an assist from Ben Drake to push the AHS lead to 2-0, which is how it stood when the horn sounded on the opening period.
“We dealt with them better than we did the last game,” Collinsville head coach Brien Bednara said. “We hung around and kept playing a good game, but they were bottling us up, they were skating fast and were aggressive on the floor check and gave us problems along the boards. They took advantage of some real nice passing and even though our goalie made some real nice saves, it was just too much for us tonight.”
Alton kept the pressure up in the second period, as Rubin scored on a wrister at the 9:41 mark off an assist from Brandon Lang to elevate the lead to 3-0.
A penalty to Myer for holding at 8:37 put the Kahoks on the power play for the third time to that point, looking to swing the pendulum their direction a little bit, but Alton had other ideas.
Just seven seconds later, Redbird Kain Henson lit the lamp again on an unassisted goal to make it 4-0. It erased CHS' power play and shifted the momentum back to Alton.
Collinsville finally got on the board at the 7:28 mark of the second period when Kodee Keys scored on a pass from Jason Sperry to shave it to 4-1.
But when the buzzer sounded Alton had outshot the Kahoks 16-2 in the period and was in the driver's seat.
Rubin completed his hat trick at the 9:27 mark of the third period, accepting a pass from Myer right in front of the net and poking it past Nowicki to make it 5-1. The Alton student section flung hats onto the ice to show their appreciation for Rubin's effort in the win.
“It was fun,” Rubin said.
CHS tacked on a second goal off the stick of Cory Sperry right in front of the net with 1:21 to play. Nicolas Hager and Jason Sperry assisted on the goal.
One thing the Redbirds know needs to be sured up are the penalties. Alton had five two-minute minors for the game, while Collinsville was only tagged for one penalty in the game.
“The penalties weren't helping us obviously and that's going to be a big factor against Edwardsville for sure,” said Rubin. “The short-handed goal obviously helped, but I would definitely say we need to hold onto ourselves and stay out of the box against Edwardsville.”
Rubin is all to familiar with the scenario entering Tuesday between the Redbirds and Tigers. Last year it was his Birds who were undefeated entering the playoffs only to lose to a young and hungry EHS squad. This time the shoe is on the other foot with AHS as the underdog.
Rubin said that memory of the '14 playoffs is a motivating factor as well as a piece of revenge for the Tigers.
“We didn't lose last year either til playoffs, so they've got one coming,” Rubin said. “We're going to give them a game. I think we've really got to play the physical game because they're not all big guys — they're very quick — but I think we can tag them and if we keep certain guys in check we can definitely shut them down and put pucks in the net.”
Bednara added, “They're going to have to play (like they did tonight) all the way. They'll have to get that good goaltending like they did tonight (Mitch Klug) and in the last game because Edwardsville will take advantage of a weak goalie. (EHS) is a fast team, a trifle faster than us, but I think (Alton) will give them a good shot and it will be a good game either way. It should be a great series.”
2A NORTH PLAYOFFS
ALTON 5, COLLINSVILLE 2
shots 6 2 7 — 15
penalties — 1 for 2 minutes
shots 13 16 16 — 45
penalties — 5 for 10 minutes
A — Jake Bohn 6:36 (Jordan Myer assist)
A — Alex Rubin 4:05 (Ben Drake assist)
A — Rubin 9:41 (Brandon Lang assist)
A — Kain Henson 8:30 (unassisted)
C — Kodee Keys 7:28 (Jason Sperry assist)
A — Rubin 9:27 (Myer assist)
C — Cory Sperry 1:21 (Nicolas Hager, Jason Sperry assists)