HOUGHTON - Last season, in the Joe Bukovich Classic consolation game, the Jeffers Jets rallied from 4-0 down early to defeat Gaylord.
They found themselves 2-0 down early in a repeat match-up Saturday but never got the upper hand as the Blue Devils skated back below the Mackinac Bridge with an 8-3 victory.
Nick Shear got the game's first goal just 26 seconds in after Gaylord crashed the net and Spencer Bajko's shot appeared to go in off Shear's body. At 4:00 of the first, Mike Kowicki doubled the lead on a solo breakaway.
Jeffers’ Chase Daavettila carries the puck out of the defensive zone trailed by Gaylord’s Dugan Kelly during Saturday’s game at Dee?Stadium. (DMG photo by Brandon Veale)
Jeffers took the game to Gaylord physically, but the Blue Devils shook off the big hits and kept moving forward.
Blue Devils coach Pete Wilkinson said his team expected a pair of hard games in the Copper Country, regardless of the opponent.
"We knew we were going to get challenged physically, but we responded well," the former Michigan Tech assistant said.
Gaylord 2 1 5 - 8
Jeffers 0 1 2 - 3
First period - 1. GLD, Nick Shear (Spencer Bajko), :24; 2. GLD, Mike Kowicki (unassisted), 4:00.
Second period - 3. JEF, Dano Goldsworthy (Travis Therrian), 4:25; 4. GLD, Kowicki (Dugan Kelly, Cole Muzyl), 8:04.
Third period - 5. JEF, Therrian (Travis Wesa), 2:14 (PP) 6. GLD, Bajko (Derek Axford, Regan Quaal), 3:07; 7, GLD, Quaal (Anthony Tomaski), 6:13; 8, GLD, Shear (Kelly), 8:47 (PP): 9, GLD, Axford (Bajko), 11:23; 10, JEF, Goldsworthy (Chase Daavettila, Therrian), 14:35 (PP); 11, GLD, Shear (unassisted), 16:37 (SH).
Power plays - Jeffers, 2-for-6; Gaylord 1-for-4.
Penalties - Jeffers 5/10, Gaylord 7/14
Goalie saves - GLD, Peter Lawton 16 (4-6-6); JEF, Dylan Sever 28 (12-8-8).
Unlike last year, the Jets limited the early damage and pulled a goal back when Dano Goldsworthy converted a 2-on-1 opportunity from Travis Therrian. However, Kowicki scored his second of the game about four minutes later.
Therrian grabbed a goal of his own early in the third, firing it in off the crossbar from the high slot after trailing the rush. Jeffers' hope didn't last, as Spencer Bajko scored to Jet goalie Dylan Sever's stick side after a breakway just 53 seconds later.
Bajko's goal was the first of five for the Blue Devils in the period.
Jeffers coach David Bekkala said his team lost focus during the game.
"I thought we were going be able to regroup and come back, but a couple of bad goals and it really feels like it's out of reach," he said.
Sever made 28 saves in his first career start for the Jets, who were outshot 36-19.
Goldsworthy scored a second goal late for the Jets, who will play at Kingsford tonight but meet Gaylord next weekend at the Blue Devils' Division 3 Invite.
"We definitely have our work cut out coming next weekend, but I think we compete. We're not that far away from being in every game," Bekkala said.
Brandon Veale can be reached at email@example.com.