ALPENA – On Sunday October 25, the Gladwin Gladiator Bantam Hockey team officially began their season with an Adray League game against Alpena. It looked a little different from years past.
The crowd size was a little smaller, pregame warmups were shorter, there was no hand shake line with opponents, and you couldn’t see the kids’ smiling faces beneath the masks. Although it looked a bit different with all the changes one thing remained the same, the Gladiators came to play!
This year’s Bantam team only has three returning players from last year. As a young team head coach, Bill von Matt could not be more pleased with the way they started the season. Gladwin came out with a 10-1 win over the Alpena team in the first game. The Gladiator offense pounded away with 36 shots on net while the defensive game of the Gladiators was extremely impressive limiting the Alpena team to only three shots on net in the entire game.
The Alpena squad was a well-rounded team with a very solid goalie which kept the game close and competitive for the first period but the continued offensive pressure from the Gladiators began to pick up in the later periods where the Gladiators began to gain momentum and take a large lead.
Team Captain Landon Woods, who plays defense for the Gladiators, lead his team with an outstanding performance of speed and agility scoring two goals and one assist in the game. Another key defensive player, Drew von Matt, had a playmaker with three assists and one goal in the game.
Isaac Wheeler at center had a big game with three assists on the night. Lance Snyder set the bar extremely high for the Gladiator squad with his endless pursuit of the puck and never giving up on a play. Ashton Reinke and Moe Newman scored two goals each with Ashton picking up an assist as well. Skating hard and setting up plays were Brae Guzman, Carter Nutt and Gunner Staley, each receiving an assist for their heads-up play.
Peyton Freeman, Braden Bolen, and Jeffrey Zeitz who all play a winger position each scored a goal. Playing between the pipes for Gladwin was Jacob McKinney who played a strong game. Probably one of the most memorable goals in Gladiator history came in the final moments of the game.
As many people know, the Gladiator hockey family lost an amazing member several weeks ago. A former GAHA member himself from the good old days of outdoor hockey, Jeremy Zeitz, father of Jeffrey Zeitz, was called home to be with his Heavenly Father.
A man who will be missed by all will always be remembered by his hockey family as the “original stat man” which is no small job for a Gladiator stat keeper. His Anlaan truck was a landmark symbol in the parking lot at hockey arenas around the state letting people know that Gladwin was “in the house.”
While he was greatly missed this weekend, he was not forgotten inside the arena. As Jeffrey Zeitz who had been playing his heart out the entire game stepped out onto the ice for his final shift with only a minute left on the clock, he fought hard with every stride of skates. He battled down low to set up just below the high slot in the center of the ice directly in front of the Alpena net with only 20 seconds left on the clock.
As a perfectly placed pass hit the blade of his hungry stick Jeffery let the puck fly. It sailed high and hard just missing the cross bar as it flew past the net and hit the back glass. As the time clock continued to drop and the game looked like it was about to end the puck was picked up by team captain Landon Woods as it fell to the ice directly behind the net.
With a quick move around an Alpena player another perfectly placed pass found its way to Jeffrey who was still battling hard to maintain his position. This time as the puck laid flat on the ice against Jeffery’s blade, with 10 seconds left on the clock Jeffrey let one more shot go.
This time with even more speed and accuracy he found the back of the net beating the goal tender with a perfectly placed shot. As the Gladiator spectators cheered and the players on the bench erupted in excitement, the players on the ice embraced Jeffery as he pounded on his chest and pointed towards Heaven.
I’m not sure what exactly was going through the minds of everyone else at that moment but for me it was one of the greatest goal scoring moments in Gladiator history and I’m sure it was recorded by the original stat man!
Gladwin Played a second game later that day against the same Alpena team beating them again 5-1.
Head Coach Bill von Matt would like to thank all of this year’s current sponsors for their support. It’s tough preparing for a season without having home ice to practice on. Most teams have had their ice up for a while but Gladwin is a bit behind this year with the COVID-19 fallout.
It is only because of our sponsors that we were able to provide the kids with ice opportunities in Gaylord, equipment, and training materials to help us prepare.