Ryan Padgett and his East Grand Rapids hockey teammates have been eliminated in the first round of the playoffs in each of the past two years.
The Pioneers were determined to avoid an early exit this winter.
Padgett scored twice in EGR’s 4-1 victory over Jackson Lumen Christi in the tournament opener for the Pioneers on Saturday night. EGR didn’t stop there either. The Pioneers beat Mattawan 6-4 in overtime in Wednesday’s regional final, sending EGR to the state quarterfinals for the second time in four seasons.
“Ryan is a four-year college player,” Newton said. “He had playoff success his freshman year and the last two years we’ve been knocked out in the first round. He certainly didn’t want his senior season to end in the first playoff game. He showed up and put on a solid performance.
“Ryan scored two goals, but he was also all over the ice and left it all there. When you’re a senior and this might be your last high school hockey game, you want to be on the safe side.
Padgett’s efforts also earned him Grand Rapids Winter Sports Athlete of the Week honors for the week of Feb. 21-26 in a poll that ended Feb. MLive.com Friday morning. Check out the full results below.
The Pioneers, 13-12 overall, will face Midland Dow, 17-5-3, in Saturday’s quarterfinal game at 7 p.m. at Ferris State University in Big Rapids. The winner will advance to the state semifinals.
Padgett leads the EGR defensemen with 14 points, which is third-highest on the team. He has also been a team captain and college player for four years.
“It’s my fourth year and Ryan is my first player in four years,” Newton said. “It’s been great to watch him grow and become a leader, and it’s been fun for me to watch him.
“The team really respects him because he does things the right way. He’s a nice guy to everyone in the team. You don’t have to worry about his work ethic at the practice or in the weight room. He’s always there, prepped and ready to go. He’s been a program guy for us. He really enjoys the process of high school hockey, and it’s contagious around school and of the ice rink.