HOUGHTON - "We skated hard and forechecked hard and we did everything we were supposed to. We had a heck of a period," Calumet coach Jim Crawford said.
"They completely outplayed us in the first period, beat us to every loose puck, they won every battle," Houghton coach Corey Markham said.
The score after the first period of the first MacInnes Holiday Classic semifinal was 3-0 ... in favor of Houghton.
Houghton’s Connor Hannon backhands the puck into the net for Houghton’s first goal against Calumet goaltender Troy Pierce in the first period of the first game of the MacInnes Holiday Classic Wednesday at MacInnes Student Ice Arena in Houghton. (DMG photo by Brandon Veale)
It got even better for the Gremlins from there, as they advanced to tonight's title game with a 6-0 shutout.
The Gremlins, now 9-0, were outshot 13-5 in the first period and 26-22 for the game, but converted their chances efficiently and benefitted from goaltender Marcus Gloss's first prep shutout.
Markham called it a "really weird game."
Calumet0 0 0 - 0
Houghton3 3 0 - 6
First period - 1, HOU, Connor Hannon 12 (unassisted), 4:08 (PP); 2, HOU, Seth Kaarto 1 (Austin Erva, Riley McKay), 7:56; 3, HOU, Jon Bostwick 5 (Hunter Rajala), 16:46.
Second period - 4, HOU, Hannon 13 (Rajala), :11; 5, HOU, Ray Brice 14 (Rajala), 14:27; 6, HOU, Cale Markham 2 (Rajala).
Third period - no scoring.
Power-play opportunities - Calumet, 0-for-3, Houghton, 1-for-1.
Penalties - Calumet 2/4, Houghton 4/8.
Goalie saves - CAL, Troy Pierce 2 (2-x-x), Brian Rogers 14 (x-8-6); HOU, Marcus Gloss 26 (13-6-7).
"We had a couple scoring chances and we put it in the net. I've never felt worse about a 3-0 lead in my life."
Senior captain Hunter Rajala put the Gremlins in position, assisting on Houghton's last four goals. Markham said Rajala was a 'horse' Wednesday and played his best game of the season thus far.
"Our game plan coming was just to just get it off the glass and look for guys going down the ice, streaking. I was able to see them and I just kept going off the ice hard and they were able to pick it up and go," Rajala said.
Houghton took the early lead 4:08 in when Connor Hannon fought his way to the net and flipped a backhand behind Calumet goalie Troy Pierce for his 12th goal of the year. About four minutes later, Austin Erva carried the rush along the far boards, then slipped the puck to Seth Kaarto coming through the slot. Kaarto tucked it in for his first of the year.
The final decision came in a narrow space surrounding the first intermission.
Houghton's Jon Bostwick buried a loose rebound for his fourth goal in the last three games with just 14 seconds left in the period. The teams went into the locker room for what Markham referred to as a "strong talking-to."
"We felt like we were three down. We wanted to come out and change that," Rajala said.
Rajala's pass set up a 2-on-1 just 11 seconds into the second period. Hannon buried it for the 4-0 goal, essentially booked the Gremlins' place in the tonight's title game and triggered the end of Pierce's rough (two saves on six shots) night.
Brian Rogers, himself pulled from the Dec. 21 meeting at Dee Stadium, stopped 14 of 16 shots in relief.
"You are not going to win many hockey games when your goalie's not making saves, and we didn't have a heck of a lot of them tonight," Crawford said.
Ray Brice and Cale Markham tacked on goals in the second period for Houghton, which hopes to successfully defend its title tonight against Sault Ste. Marie and equal Calumet for the most MacInnes Holiday Classic championships with 10.
"If we don't show up tomorrow, we're going to be in big, big trouble,"coach Markham said.
Calumet, playing Hancock in the consolation game at 6 p.m. tonight, will just have to find encouragement from a high standard of play if not results.
"I'd taking playing the way we did tonight tomorrow if we could. Obviously, you're going to get a few more breaks, maybe, tomorrow than we did tonight. It wasn't meant to be tonight, I guess," Crawford said.