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January 23, 2013

Rochester United playing its best hockey as season approaches most critical time

By Mike Moore
C & G Sports Writer

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Rochester United playing its best hockey as season approaches most critical time
Max Harper, right, battles for the puck with Stoney Creek’s Sean Rewold during a game earlier this winter. At press time, Rochester United was alone in first place in the OAA Red.

ST. CLAIR SHORES — The start of the season couldn’t have been worse, even though it began with a pair of wins in the first three games.

Marshall Bowery was Rochester United’s best scoring threat a year ago. He entered the 2012-13 campaign as one of the most dangerous offensive weapons the team had.

And fewer than seven periods in, he was lost for the season.

“Separated his shoulder in two spots,” coach Craig Staskowski said last week, still speaking with a tone of disbelief. “That kind of derailed us for a while.”

But only for a while.

As of late, United has been unbeatable — literally.

“Guys have really stepped up, taken advantage of their opportunity,” senior forward Kevin Kurzeja said. “It was a bad start to things, but we maintained that common goal of winning. That never changed.”

In their mindset or on the ice.

Kurzeja spoke roughly a half hour before his team took on St. Clair Shores Unified on Jan. 16. The Lakers are a young team in a rebuilding mode, and Rochester flexed its muscles from start to finish.

Kurzeja scored the game’s first goal 1:58 into the first period, and the route was officially on.

United led 4-0 by the end of the first, and the game was called by mercy after the second with the visitors up 9-0.

“We know that’s a team struggling a bit, but we had to go out and take care of our own business,” Staskowski said afterward. “I was glad to see our guys do that.”

The win put Rochester at 10-5-1 for the season.

The 4-1-0 mark in the Oakland Activities Association Red Division was good for first place.

Senior defenseman Joe Marino said he wasn’t surprised at the level of play so far.

“There’s a lot of pride on this team,” he added. “We lost a great player when things started, but we still have the same mission.”

Staskowski said he saw the potential of things during the summer and fall, when his guys really dominated most of their games.

Slowly but surely, the offense has figured things out. The defense has only gotten stronger, he explained, and Kyler Patenaude’s 1.82 goals-against average and .935 save percentage has led the one-two punch in net with Brody Blair.

All this from a team that was 10-16-0 last season.

Since the calendar flipped to 2013, Rochester is 4-0-1, winning big — the guys beat Oxford High 10-2 — or gutting out wins, like the 2-1 victory against Lake Orion.

“We’re playing some of our best hockey of the season, right now,” Staskowski said.

Maroni and Kurzeja both spoke of wrapping up a league title, as well as a long playoff run, when asked about the rest of the winter.

“We actually feel like a team that can go all the way,” Marino said.

“We feel like we can win a state championship. We believe that.”

You can reach C & G Sports Writer Mike Moore at mmoore@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1038. Twitter Follow Mike on Twitter.