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December 23, 2013

Stoney Creek and Rochester United take part in historic game at Comerica

By Mike Moore
C & G Sports Writer

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Stoney Creek and Rochester United take part in historic game at Comerica
Guys on the Stoney Creek and Rochester United hockey teams came together Dec. 16 for a rare experience: playing the first-ever hockey game at Comerica Park.

DETROIT — The venue was historic.

The game was an instant classic.

And as soon as it ended, rivals became friends, exchanging handshakes and posing for pictures in a place they’ve all likely been before — in a spot they never imagined being.

“Awesome,” Rochester Hills Stoney Creek hockey coach Ian Smith said Dec. 16 after his guys took on Rochester United on the newly installed rink at Comerica Park. “An experience everybody here will never forget. For these kids to be down here and with their families, and playing against guys they know and are friends with, it’s something pretty special.”

“It’s just so cool, for us, for the guys, for all the people involved,” United coach Craig Staskowski said after his team escaped with a 5-4 shootout win.

“Cool” was an understatement, both for the venue and the temperature, which seemed to plummet as the 3:30 p.m. start approached and the game got underway.

Yet both teams took the ice, gliding up and down a frozen surface constructed on top of the Tigers’ baseball field in preparation for the Hockeytown Winter Festival.

“It’s crazy to be part of this,” Stoney’s Ryan Matusik said from outside the team locker room, deep under Comerica, while still trying to thaw out. “It was cool to play a team like (United), too. Those are a lot of guys we grew up with, a lot of guys we know.”

Matusik was nearly the hero of the contest, especially after scoring with 3.7 seconds remaining in regulation to tie a back-and-forth affair at 4-4.

Stoney struck first in the game, getting power-play goals from Findley O’Shea and Cam Scharrett roughly three minuets apart in the first period.

United then took the momentum right back, getting a goal from Frank Scheff with 8:13 remaining in the first frame, and then consecutive goals by Mershall Bowery, Jimmy Pittel and Luke Brunson in the second period to take a 4-2 lead heading into the third.

Stoney wouldn’t go quietly, though, as Brandon Ballard brought the deficit to within 4-3, setting up Matusik’s game-tying tally with just seconds remaining.

The teams elected to end the game with a shootout, bypassing an eight-minute overtime.

United’s Max Harper scored the lone goal in the five-man event.

“Awesome,” Harper said with a smile. He officially ended the first-ever high school hockey game played at Comerica Park. “I’ve never done anything like that.”

Nobody had.

“This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Smith said, shrugging off the loss, considering everything else that played out. “Anytime you can have an event, where the families and friends and everyone gets to be a part of it, it’s something pretty special.”

“Most of us are good friends with a lot of those guys,” Harper said, pointing at the Stoney players. “That makes this pretty cool.”

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