Athens stays undefeated, beats Troy 2-1 thanks to 46 saves by Jeff Merola
TROY — From the start of the season until Saturday afternoon, high school hockey teams in the city of Troy were perfect.
But as Troy Athens and Troy High met for the first time in the 2013-14 campaign, something had to give, and Jeff Merola certainly wasn’t it.
The Athens goalie stopped 46 shots and brother Brad Merola notched the game-winner late in the second period to propel the unbeaten Red Hawks past Troy 2-1.
“I thought it was a really well-played game,” Troy coach Tim Zimmerman said. The loss was the first of the season for his Colts. “Their goalie played outstanding. He was just excellent. You have to give them credit in a game like this.”
“They out-shot us, and really carried the play most of the game,” Athens coach Joe Barone said. “We relied on Jeff. He carried us in this one.”
Troy took a 1-0 lead midway through the second period when Nik Bester beat Merola on the only shot he’d miss all game.
John Carandang tied things up less than two minutes later on a power-play tally, and then Brad Merola got the eventual winner, short handed, with just 15 seconds remaining in the second.
“It was a big win, a really big one,” Barone said. “I think we looked at it as a huge measuring stick. I can’t remember the last time we faced Troy and both teams were undefeated. We each had a chance to put a blemish on the other’s record.”
Athens improves to 7-0-1, and the team’s 3-0-1 mark in the Oakland Activities Association White Division is good for first place.
Troy, 7-1-0 overall, is 2-1-0 in the White.
“We weren’t going to go 25-0,” Zimmerman said with a laugh. “We really played a good game. I was happy with the kids. Athens just made the most of the opportunities they had.”
The city rivals meet a second time at 1 p.m. Feb. 8 at the Troy Sports Center.