HOUGHTON - Twice Friday night, the Houghton hockey team dug themselves in a hole against downstate opponent Farmington Hills. And twice, the Gremlins climbed out of their self-inflicted chasm with a burst of theretofore absent energy to recover for a 5-3 win.
Junior Raymond Brice recorded his second hat trick of the season with an empty net score to finish the Flyers off as the Gremlins fought back from a major goalie flub in the second period and five minute major in the third that led to 2-1 and 3-2 deficits, respectively.
"Those can be back breakers and they are momentum changers," Houghton head coach Corey Markham said. "But we kept fighting and they weren't hanging their heads over that which was real good to see. Once we fell down we played a lot harder in the third (period) and got a nice win."
Houghton defenseman Hunter Rajala puts a hit on Farmington Hills forward Thaddeus Zak as the two battle for the puck in the first period. Rajala tallied a secondary assist on the game-winning goal. (DMG photo by Michael Bleach)
Farmington took their last lead with 12 minutes left in the contest after the Flyers Burnett Reede backhanded a score with just 25 seconds remaining on Spencer Donnelly's five-minute checking-from-behind penalty. The Gremlins (7-0) then took another penalty when junior Connor Hannon was sent to the box for interference, but Houghton outskated Farmington for a solid kill and was able to build some energy on the bench.
Desperate to equal, Houghton briefly thought they had the game tied when Jed Kallio punched in a power play rebound, only to see the ref immediately wave the goal off for an out-of-position net.
Houghton's (many) ensuing protests went unheeded, but the Orange and Black were able to successfully channel their energy into their play, and Brice netted his second tally of the game with less than four minutes remaining to reward the hard work.
Farmington Hills 1 1 1 - 3
Houghton 1 1 3 - 5
First period - 1, FAR, Eric Stanis, 13:40; 2, HOU, Raymond Brice SH (Connor Hannon), 16:20.
Second period - 3, FAR, Nic Demchuk, 14:17; 4, HOU, Jon Bostwick (Spencer Donnelly, Tristan Foltz), 16:35.
Third period - 5, FAR, Reede Burnett PP (Stephen Coulter, Noah Downs), 5:07; 6, HOU, Brice, 13:33; 7, HOU, Hannon (Foltz, Hunter Rajala), 14:58; 8, HOU, Brice EN, 16:05.
Penalties - FAR, 8-16; HOU, 8-19.
Goalie saves - FAR, Hunter Myers 37 (12-19-6); HOU, Jayson Wiitala 18 (2-8-8).
"I think that definitely helped," Brice said of the disallowed goal. "It got the team fired up and we needed to get one with that one waved off."
Hannon then put Houghton on top for good with 2:02 to play with a tip-in from defenseman Tristan Foltz's shot from the point.
"They were getting a little upset with (the disallowed goal) and we started to play with more energy," Markham said. "That was the biggest thing, we fought harder - like I would expect us to do from the start. But we showed resolve, continued to battle and got the nice win in the end."
Farmington briefly held a lead in the first period after a nice individual effort from senior Eric Stanis, but Brice responded quickly with his third short-handed goal of the season. The junior forward was sent in clear on goal after Hannon forced a turnover and slid a quick pass his way. It was the fourth straight game with a short-handed goal for Houghton.
"He is just so fast and so explosive that at the high school level very few guys can deal with that explosiveness," Markham said of Brice. "He really uses that to his advantage, he is just so doggone fast that defenseman have a hard time turning with him and matching that speed."
The Flyers took another lead in the second when Houghton goalie Jayson Wiitala mishandled a Farmington clearance and the visitors' Nic Demchuk was gifted an open net.
Still, Houghton responded again, this time with Jon Bostwick slapping in a saucer pass from Donnelly with just 25 seconds to go in the second frame.
"Real disappointed in how we showed up," Markham said. "There was zero energy on our bench, we had no life. We were just kind of going through the motions. ... we had energy in spurts but we need it for a full three periods.
"Still, good resolve to gut it out and get the win."