Hockey program takes major step toward league title

Senior netminder Brett Dinges, pictured here in the February 20 triumph over the West Bloomfield Lakers, delivered quite possibly his best performance of the season in Oxford Avondale United’s 4-3 victory over the Bloomfield Hills Black Hawks at the Detroit Skating Club on February 27. Photo courtesy of Skip Townsend – TZR Sports Photography.


By Teddy Rydquist
Leader Staff Writer
Improving to 8-1 (4-1 Oakland Activities Association White Division), the Oxford Avondale United (OAU) hockey program won all three games they played from February 23-27, including a key league victory to round out their week.
Beginning their week with a trip to the Farmington Hills Arena to battle Farmington United on Tuesday, February 23, OAU frustrated the home team all afternoon long, cruising to a 9-1 victory.
Head coach Derek Billis’ team outshot Farmington United, 52-8, with seniors Nathan Poplars and Connor Vittetoe tallying two goals apiece. Poplars added two assists for a four-point showing and Brendan Vogler, another senior, had three points, including his fourth goal of the campaign.
Three days later, Friday, February 26, OAU hit the road again to clash with the Walled Lake Western Warriors at the Kensington Ice Arena. Tied at two after the opening 17 minutes, OAU pulled away with four goals in the second period, en route to a 7-3 win.
Senior Cameron Paquette, the team’s leading scorer, had a four-point outing, junior Ben Hepp registered three points, and senior Jake Billis scored his sixth goal of the season and recorded his 11th assist.
Playing for the second consecutive night, OAU completed their week at the Detroit Skating Club against the Bloomfield Hills Black Hawks, the only team to beat them in 2020-21, on Saturday, February 27.
The Detroit Skating Club serves as the home rink for both programs and OAU was the designated away team for this tilt.
Jumping out to a 3-0 lead after one period of play, which led to Bloomfield Hills head coach Bruce McAlister pulling junior goaltender Brandon Yaker and rolling with sophomore Bryce McElya for the rest of the night, OAU prevailed, 4-3, handing the Black Hawks their first OAA White loss of the year.
Paquette scored two of the three first-period goals, with junior Brian Budde finding the back of the net for the other, which was his first of the season. Fellow junior Freddie Fresard was responsible for OAU’s final goal of the night, deflecting a Paquette shot in the second period.
Senior netminder Brett Dinges, who has started all nine games, turned in, arguably, his sharpest performance of the year, making several big glove and kick saves to keep OAU in front.
“Losing to them (on February 13) really kind of gave everybody some drive,” Billis said postgame. “We really felt like we should have won that game, we didn’t put the puck in the net, and they got some easy goals on us, so we knew we could beat them.
“That really put something into them, then, we came back on West Bloomfield (on February 20), and they believe in a lot right now, they believe we can do anything we put our minds to. They’re in a great mindset to take on the rest of the season.”
Billis also commented on the job Dinges has done, turning in a tremendous showing when his team needed it the most.
“He’s very important, it’s big for him to make a couple of big saves early in the game and build up his confidence,” he said. “He’s doing well, like the team, he’s got a lot of improvement to do still in certain situations, but, overall, he’s been playing great.
“He’s going to be getting a ton of time for us, and, right now, with where we’re at, being 8-1, I can’t say anything bad about how he’s doing. I’m very happy with him so far, there’s going to be games coming up where he’s going to have to be the man and step up and really push us to the next level.”
OAU and Bloomfield Hills are the only teams in the OAA White with one league loss, holding a one-game lead over Troy United (3-6, 1-2) in the loss column in the divisional standings.
Up next, the team has an OAA White road game against the West Bloomfield Lakers on Wednesday, March 3 at Lakeland Ice Arena at 7:20 p.m., followed by a home date with Troy United the next day, Thursday, March 4, at 8:30 p.m.

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