HOUGHTON - The streaking Hancock Bulldogs stayed hot with a 5-3 win over the Jeffers Jets Thursday night at the MacInnes Student Ice Arena.
But Hancock's Lake Superior Hockey Conference victory - its seventh in a row - had to be earned over a determined Jets squad.
"We had some periods where we seemed to be a step slow tonight," HCHS skipper Dan Rouleau said afterward. "But Jeffers has some guys who can score, and you can never take them lightly."
The game was originally scheduled for early January, but was moved up at the last minute.
Neither coach seemed to mind, citing holiday tourneys coming up early next week.
"We're playing in the Escanaba Holiday Tournament, so it was good to get some game action in before then," Jets' coach David Bekkala noted.
Hancock 1 2 2 - 5
Jeffers 0 2 1 - 3
First period - 1, HA, Peterson (Hill, Heinonen) 13:05
Second period - 2, HA, Heinonen (Givens) :55, 3, JE., Therrian (Goldsworthy) 7:06, 4, HA - Heinonen (unassisted) 9:42, 5, JE - Pollard (Bailey) 13:41
Third period - 6, HA, Laux (Hauswirth) 7:11, 7, HA - Givens (Heinonen) 12:29, 8, JE - Hillstrom (Bailey) 15:25
Goalie saves: Sever (JE) (27 shots, 22 saves), Whittaker, HA, (17 shots, 14 saves)
Penalties: Jeffers 3-6, Hancock 2-4.
Hancock faces a tough Sault Ste. Marie team in the John MacInnes Classic next week - a game Rouleau expects to be a test.
"We had a 10-day break coming into this game, so it was nice to get in some ice time," the Bulldogs' skipper said. "Sault has a very strong team. ... hopefully, we'll get a little better effort than we did here."
Hancock had to weather a Jeffers rally that extended from late in the second period to early in the third period.
The Green and White had a handful of good scoring chances to cut into a 3-2 deficit. But Hancock netminder Dylan Whittaker and the Hancock defense were equal to the challenge.
Jeff Laux netted a power play marker to up the HCHS margin to 4-2 at 7:11 of the final frame. Teammate Trevor Givens scored from close range five minutes later to make 5-2 and the Crimson and Gold was home free.
Kirk Hillstrom of the Jets made it 5-3, but that was as close as the Range boys would get. Hancock senior forward Dylan Peterson had the only goal of an opening period that saw JHS goalie Dylan Sever come up with some key saves among his 10 stops.
"I thought he (Sever) did a nice job," Bekkala said. "By no means, were the goals they got his fault. I thought they (Bulldogs) capitalized on a couple of our lapses."
Both teams notched two goals apiece in the middle period. Alex Heinonen tallied twice for the victors, while Travis Therrian and freshman David Pollard lit the light for the Jets.
Heinonen accounted for two goals and an an assist for the 7-2 Bulldogs. Givens chipped in a goal and two helpers. Jeffers, 2-7 on the year, received two assists from freshman Tyler Bailey.
Bekkala feels his relatively young team will be competitive all season.
"I don't expect to come out there and be the weak sister. I expect to challenge game in and game out," he said.