Icers fall to Lakers, 3-1

Skaters from both OAU and West Bloomfield gathered for a postgame photograph. If you look closely, the red lettering of the Ambassador Bridge can be seen in the background. Photo provided.

For the first time in program history, the Oxford-Avondale United hockey team participated in an outdoor game when they battled the West Bloomfield Lakers at Clark Park in Detroit on Jan. 14.
The experience provided the boys with memories that will last a lifetime, but it was West Bloomfield that came away with the victory, 3-1.
Senior JP Ayar and junior Johnny Teshka propelled the Lakers to a 2-0 first period lead, finding the back of the net less than six minutes apart. Teshka added his second goal of the night to extend the margin to 3-0 with 8:47 to play.
Sophomore center Ben Hepp recorded OAU’s only tally of the contest. Allowing both players to experience the chance to play outdoors, juniors Brett Dinges and Austin Spivey split netminding duties. Spivey drew the start and finished with 12 saves on 14 shots, Dinges stopped 16 of the 17 pucks that came his way.
“This is something that we had been wanting to do, wanted to do something fun for the boys,” head coach Derek Billis said of how the outdoor game came to be.
“The coach of West Bloomfield (Logan McLean) and I talked at last season’s end of the year meeting. I mentioned to him we were interested in doing an outdoor game and they were all for it since they had played in one the year before.
“So, we set it up, and it was great. The rink kind of overlooks the Mexican Village down there and you can see the Ambassador Bridge in the background. It was very cool.”
Extending their losing streak to its current five games, OAU also dropped tilts with Farmington, Fenton and Troy United on Jan. 17, 22 and 25, respectively. Adding to an already difficult slate of games, each of these contests took place on the road. OAU’s last home game came all the way back on Dec. 19, the day before Christmas break began.
Now standing at 3-10 overall and 1-5 in the OAA White, this season has turned into a trying one for OAU as the team has tried to replace junior center Jake Billis, lost for the season to a broken collarbone, and sophomore Freddie Fresard, battling a case of mononucleosis.
Two of the team’s better puck-handlers, these losses have been tough to overcome. However, these ailments have also allowed some of Billis’ younger players to step up and see increased ice time.
“Hepp and Nathan Poplars (a junior at Avondale) have had to move into playing a lot more center for us,” he shared. “They have both done a really good job when pressed into duty following the losses of Jake and Freddie.
“Alex Palombit, a freshman (at Avondale), is another guy that, even though he hasn’t really shown up on the scoresheet much, he’s done a lot of good things out there. He has time to develop into a very nice player.”
Beginning a six-game sabbatical from divisional play, OAU will face-off with the Marysville Vikings tonight at 6:30 p.m. at McMorran Arena in Port Huron before finally returning home to the Detroit Skating Club to host the Bishop Foley Ventures, Thursday, Jan. 30, at 7:45 p.m.
“We should have a nice stretch here to string a few wins together, hopefully, as long as the boys play like they’re capable of,” Billis said.
“It would be nice for us to put a couple of wins together, get our record looking a little better and build some momentum entering the home stretch of the season.”

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