WATERMAN – Indian Creek midfielder Cam Russell extended his run as all-time assists leader for the Timberwolves and forward Drew Gaston inched closer to the all-time lead for goals with two more in a 3-1 win over conference rivals Hinckley-Big Rock on Wednesday.
The game was a level affair through nearly all of the first half until Gaston went down in the box and was awarded a penalty kick in the 38thminute, which he converted coolly to the right of H-BR keeper Hunter Swanson.
“After I get to the penalty area, I just gather myself and then take a few seconds,” Gaston said. “After the whistle, I just go.”
Despite the final score, it was Swanson who jumped out for a good portion of the match, highlighted by two kick saves in one-on-one situations versus IC juniors Russell and Brennen McNally.
“Our keeper played well,” Hinckley coach Brad Phillips said. “They’re a high-powered team and we held them to one goal that wasn’t a penalty kick. Physically, we played well. Mentally, we weren’t always in the right spot. I’m a little disappointed that we did give away two penalties, which, a lot of times, is mental.”
Physical performance was an important factor in a game played at near-90 degrees, and both teams soldiered through the tough conditions. In a game that could have been a slog, counterattacks were frequent and potent. For the hosts, those counterattacks created a slew of opportunities, including the two penalties.
“We’ve got guys up top like Brennan, Drew and Cam that have so much speed,” IC coach Eric Schrader said. “We've gotten a decent amount of those calls this year, just because they can beat guys down the field. Then guys are chasing them from behind and they get tripped up.”
The second penalty was finished by Russell, but the highlight of the match for both Russell and Gaston came when the forward received his teammate’s pass in full stride. A solo run from Gaston down the right flank led to a near-post shot that squeaked past Swanson.
“It feels really good,” Gaston said. “After putting a lot of shots on, it just irritates me and putting that one in the back of the net felt really good.”
Up 3-0, the Timberwolves still refused to park the bus, and a late surge of energy by the Royals combined with some chaos in the box allowed senior Avery King to poke a loose ball past Timberwolves keeper Logan Bend.
“I thought we could have actually had a lead at halftime but we didn't,” Phillips said. “And then, we came out of halftime and played fairly decent. I just think that we were down 3-1 or 3-0, and then we just didn't have the effort there.”
With that win behind them, Indian Creek improve to 7-2 on the season, while Hinckley-Big Rock drops to 5-3.
By the numbers: Hunter Swanson’s presence was apparent all night for the Royals, as he recorded six saves and broke up a number of pass attempts into the box.
Beyond the box score: The Royals’ clearest chance to equalize after going down 1-0 came when Kyle Mueller drew a foul inside the box in the 48th minute. However, his penalty attempt sailed over the bar, despite Bend being stranded in the middle of the net.
They said it: “The last few games we've been trying to do a lot of one-on-one stuff,” said Schrader “We get the ball and go one-on-one with guys and dribble. We don't look for other guys.”
Up next: Indian Creek hosts Richmond-Burton on Friday, while Hinckley-Big Rock hosts Dixon on Friday.