HOUGHTON - A series of three Grand Blanc goals in a three-minute, 14-second span of the second period sullied a strong performance from the Jeffers hockey team (1-9) Friday night in the New Year Invitational at the MacInnes Student Ice Arena.
The Jets had leads of 1-0 and 3-2 in the first period, but could not hold on as they fell 7-4 to the Bobcats to extend their losing streak to nine games.
"That's been kind of our weak spot," Jeffers coach Joe Pyykkonen said of allowing three goals in such a short span. "Obviously they got their legs back in the second."
The Bobcats had only five players notch points in the contest, but three of them had huge nights for Grand Blanc. Cody Damon picked up a hat trick and added an assist, Dan Cowan scored two goals and two assists and Jacob Endicott tallied a goal and three assists.
"Some of our better players were able to make some plays and get going," Grand Blanc coach Mike Schunot said.
After absorbing two losses by a combined score of 17-2 in the last two games, Jeffers came out ablaze in the first period to prevent another rout. After Jets goaltender Richard Yeshe made five saves in the first two minutes, Jeffers finally got the puck out of its own zone and put some offense together. Joel Kangas just missed the net on a breakaway opportunity, but Dave Wesa would not make the same mistake, putting home a rebound to give the Jets a 1-0 lead 3:24 in.
First period - 1, JEF, Dave Wesa 4 (Jay Daavettila, Joel Kangas), 3:24. 2, GB, Dan Cowan (Cody Damon), 4:55. 3, GB, Damon (Cowan, Jake Endicott), 4:55. 4, JEF, Cory Jokela 1 (Mathew Zerbst, Wyatt Geshel), 5:53. 5, JEF, Travis Therrian 3 (Kurt Aho, Daavettila), 11:40 (pp). 6, GB, Damon (unassisted), 13:28 (sh).
Second period - 7, GB, Steve Basinski (Cowan, Endicott), 7:03 (pp). 8, GB, Cowan (unassisted), 8:57. 9, GB, Cowan (Endicott, Eric Nelson), 11:17 (pp). 10, JEF, Brent Kommes 3 (Daavettila), 12:13.
Third period - 11, GB, Endicott (Basinski), 14:57 (en).
Power-play opportunities: GB, 2 of 3; JEF, 1 of 5
Penalties: GB, 7; JEF, 4
Goalie saves: GB, Jordan Ballance (13-4-11-28); JEF, Richard Yeshe (8-6-8-26)
Grand Blanc responded quickly, however, as Cowan and Damon scored in a 10-second span 1:21 later to give the Bobcats the lead. Cowan scored on a nifty faceoff play in which Damon won the faceoff and barely pushed the puck backwards, leaving Cowan to dash to the net and deposit the puck past Yeshe. Cowan returned the favor 10 seconds later, setting up the first of Damon's three goals.
Normally a burst like that would bury Jeffers, but Cory Jokela scored his first goal of the season a minute later to knot the game again. Jokela did not even realize he had scored the goal at first, as an errant shot from Wyatt Geshel struck Jokela - who was attempting to screen GB goalie Jordan Ballance - and found the back of the net.
The scoring deluge continued late in the period, as Jeffers' Travis Therrian took advantage of a scramble in front of the net and poked the puck past Ballance. But that would be the last lead the Jets would have, as Damon broke out from a faceoff in his own end and scored a short-handed breakaway goal to tie the game at 3. Damon nearly had his hat trick in the first period, but was stoned twice by Yeshe on breakaways in the final minute of the opening period.
The Bobcats controlled the play for much of the second period, but Yeshe and the Jets held strong for the first seven minutes. Yet the dam burst when the Jets started to take penalties, as the Bobcats scored two power-play goals and one even-strength goal in 3:14 to give Grand Blanc a 6-3 lead. Steve Basinski had a rebound come onto his stick and put the puck in an open net, Damon scored an acrobatic goal in which he went top-shelf on Yeshe while falling down and Cowan went top-shelf in the same spot for Grand Blanc.
Jeffers did stop the bleeding a minute later, as Brent Kommes took a shot from the point that seemingly had eyes, weaving through traffic and somehow finding twine. But that would be the end of the offense for the night, as the two teams fought back-and-forth in the third period before Jake Endicott ended the game with an empty-netter.
"We've been trying to get a win, but we couldn't get one," said Jets forward Jay Daavettila, who had three assists in the game. "We gave it as hard as we could this whole game, but couldn't bury the puck."
Ballance made 28 saves for Grand Blanc, while Yeshe stopped 26 shots for Jeffers.
Jeffers now takes on Escanaba at 3 p.m. today and Grand Blanc plays Hancock at 1 p.m. to complete the New Year Invitational.
Zach Kukkonen can be reached at zkukkonen@ mininggazette.com.