Lewis Sebrell and Casey Skolnik combined for three goals and six assists as the Ashland High hockey team cruised to a 6-2 victory over North Medford on Saturday afternoon at The RRRink.
Skolnik assisted on all three of Sebrell's goals, helping his teammate notch his fourth hat trick in as many games this season. Skolnik finished with five assists.
The duo has a long history together. Sebrell said he thinks of Skolnik as a twin brother and it is their close relationship that makes them such an effective tandem.
"All I do is get open," Sebrell said. "Me and Casey have been working on a lot of stuff during practice and we've got a saying that says blood lines are thicker than blue lines. So we just hook each other up all night long."
The Grizzlies (3-1) wasted little time finding the scoreboard. Just over two minutes into the contest, Skolnik forced a Black Tornado turnover in North Medford's (1-2) defensive end and quickly found Sebrell with a pass in the slot. Sebrell buried the shot in the top-right corner of the net, just over the glove of Tornado goalie Stephen Cole.
Two minutes later, the pair struck again when Skolnik drove into the offensive zone and hit Sebrell with a cross-ice pass for a one-timer. Sebrell's initial shot hit the post, but he slammed the rebound past Cole to give Ashland the early 2-0 lead that they would take into the first intermission.
The Grizzlies came out hot to start the second period. Ashland's Josh McLaughlin nearly scored on a breakaway to start the stanza, but was stoned by Cole. Seconds later Skolnik found Sebrell in the slot with a gorgeous pass from the corner. Sebrell then sent a laser of a wrist shot to the top-right corner for the 3-0 lead.
Sebrell nearly scored a fourth goal a minute later, but his backhanded shot on a breakaway struck the post.
North found the scoreboard soon after when Trevor Heinsohn took advantage of a sloppy Ashland defensive breakout. Heinsohn found himself alone with the puck in front of Ashland goalie Kyle Smelcer, did a 360-degree spin and slipped the puck between Smelcer's legs to bring the Tornado within two.
With just under five minutes left in the period, Ashland's Stephen McLaughlin scored on a breakaway to give the Grizzlies a 4-1 lead and seemingly put the game out of reach.
But with a minute left in the second, North Medford's Cody Chiverton gave the Tornado hope. Chiverton took the puck himself from the opposite blue line all the way to Smelcer. Chiverton then faked left then slipped a backhander by Smelcer on the right to make the score 4-2 going into the third and final period.
Ashland scored early for the third straight period when Stephen McLaughlin netted his second of the game on a wrist shot to the bottom left corner, extending the Ashland lead to 5-2.
Cole was solid in goal all day for the Tornado and was forced to make a number of saves in the third period to keep North Medford in the game. But Ashland out-shot the Tornado 14-2 in the third to nix any chance of a Tornado comeback.
North Medford became frustrated and the game began to get out of control. Two Tornado players were ejected for throwing punches.
The penalties left Ashland with a late five on three power play and Trevor Perry cashed in to give the Grizzlies the 6-2 lead with 2:30 remaining. Skolnik found Sebrell for another one-timer at the goal's mouth, but the shot hit the post and Perry stuffed the loose puck home.
Ashland out-shot the Black Tornado 24-16 for the game. The Grizzlies had 17 penalty minutes in the physical game to North Medford's 36 minutes in the box.
Ashland coach Chris Bonelli said that he expected a rough game with North Medford, and coming off a loss to Klamath Union, he knew his team would be ready for the challenge.
"We always have a physical game with North Medford," said Bonelli. "We work a lot on controlling the game because the game is a big portion of that. If you control the game, you win the game."
Skolnik never shied away from the physical play Saturday, but said his team doesn't have a preference of playing style and just does whatever is necessary for the win.
"We can play pretty much any style," Skolnik said. "We can be creative with the pass, we can hit and be physical and we can just out-skate them too. Whatever the tone of the game is, we try to play like that."
Next on Ashland's schedule is South Medford on Wednesday. Bonelli believes in his team's abilities, but said it all comes down to how the squad plays on game day.
"I like our odds," Bonelli said. "I think we've got some physical guys and we're very deep on the bench and that's to our advantage."
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Grizz survives Tornado