TROY — With the playoffs so close, taking advantage of any sort of preparation over the next week and a half is an absolute must for hockey teams across the state.
On Valentine’s Day, the Troy and Athens hockey teams won’t have a problem shifting into the postseason mindset.
“The kids look forward to these games, there’s no question about that,” Troy coach Tim Zimmerman said. “I mean, I think some of the guys play for this game as the main reason. It’s one of those ‘throw the records out’ games.”
The Colts and Red Hawks are set to square off at 2:30 p.m. Feb. 14 at the Troy Sports Center.
The game was originally scheduled for the more conventional evening time slot, but as Athens coach Joe Barone explained, there were a number of fan-related “incidents” druing the first meeting between the two teams Dec. 19, so school administrators decided to move the game to late afternoon.
“What you hope for, is this game being about Troy and Athens and the sport of hockey,” Barone said. “That’s all it should be about, because when that’s the case, there aren’t many things better. No matter what the records are or anything, people love to be a part of this.”
Both coaches said the change in time would present a new challenge, whereby guys will leave school and head directly to the rink for their pregame skate.
Shortly thereafter, the puck will drop on one of the city’s best rivalries.
“Usually, emotion wins the first game, and whoever plays the more controlled game will win the second,” Barone said. “But I think this one will get back to emotions. There’s a lot of pride on the line, and with the playoffs starting in less than two weeks, you just have that feel about it.”
Troy won the first meeting, a 3-2 decision back on Dec. 19.
That was just one of three Oakland Activities Association White Division victories for the Colts, who were 3-6-1.
Athens was 1-7-2.
“We switched our system up about three weeks ago, and it’s paying off,” Barone said. “We picked up our first league win, and then tied Avondale. So the guys are adjusting nicely.”
Asked about a potential regular-season sweep, Zimmerman said the game plan has to be the same as it was in December.
“(Athens) played well, and we expect them to do that again. We have to be the more patient team and take advantages of any mistakes we can,” he said. “Playing our game is essential, where we chip in offensively and then get back on the defensive end.”
Zimmerman and Barone were quick to dismiss looking too far down the line, as this may not be the final meeting of the 2013 season.
Both teams open the Division 1 playoffs Feb. 25 at Great Lakes Sports City with winnable games — Troy at 5:15 p.m. against Sterling Heights Stevenson and Athens at 7:45 p.m. against Chippewa Valley — with a potential regional semifinal match up set for 7:15 p.m. Feb. 27.