HOUGHTON - The Sault High hockey team looked reenergized Wednesday from their short Christmas break. The Hancock Bulldogs may have still been in vacation mode.
The eastern U.P. Blue Devils tallied three goals in the first four minutes in the second semifinal of the John MacInnes Holiday Hockey Classic and went on to win 8-2 to advance to the championship game with Houghton tonight.
"Against a great team like the Sault we needed to get off to a great start," Hancock coach Dan Rouleau said. "But we gave up easy goals and coming in that was the big thing. We wanted to make them work for their goals and we just turned around and gave them easy goals then the whole team starts getting down off the bat."
Sault High’s Christian Wilkins knocks Hancock’s Alex Hill off the puck during the first period of game two of the MacInnes Holiday Classic Wednesday at MacInnes Student Ice Arena. (DMG photo by Michael Bleach)
Blue Devils junior forward Chris Hazen got the scoring started when he pounced on a rebound from defenseman Ben LaCross' shot from the point 1:41 after the puck dropped. Blake Mastaw followed up less than 30 seconds later when Hancock goaltender William Lucier kicked out a rebound that the junior put away top-shelf.
"We have talked about this - we really wanted to clean up in front of our goal that was one of our main points tonight and we were terrible in front of our goal," Rouleau said. "Our goalie is leaving rebounds out instead of getting them to the corner or controlling them, we are not picking guys up, we are watching the puck. Just making it way too easy for the opposition."
The Sault surge continued with junior Willem Gauthier stickhandling his way past two Bulldog defenders before snapping a shot past Lucier less than four minutes in.
Sault 4 0 4 - 8
Hancock 1 1 0 - 2
First period - 1, SSM, Chris Hazen (Ben LaCross), 1:41; 2, SSM, Blake Matsaw (Chase Meehan), 2:04; 3, SSM, Willem Gauthier (Chase Gamelin, Eric Hillock), 3:48; 4, SSM, Ryan Dalsky, 13:36; 5, Han, Brett Lepisto (Hunter Kero), 15:55.
Second period - 6, Han, Dyan Hanke (Lepisto), 1:46.
Third period - 7, SSM, Gauthier, 1:02; 8, SSM, Hillock (Mastaw, Gauthier), 4:26; 9, SSM, Gamelin (Hillock), 6:45; 10, SSM, Noah Talentino, 12:47.
Penalties - Sault, 6-12; Hancock, 6-12.
Goalie saves - Sault, Nick McKenzie 17 (9-2-6); Hancock, William Lucier 37 (19-14-5); Hancock, Jacob Givens 5 (0-0-5).
The Blue Devils put 23 shots on net in the first period.
"It was a good jump," Ferroni said. "They weren't the prettiest goals but they were rebound goals. We would make a shot and then we banged in two rebounds. We have been preaching that to the guys and they made the best of it. That was the best energy we had was early in the game."
Hancock cut the deficit to two with goals from Brett Lepisto and Dylan Hanke by the second period, however, giving some life to a game Sault looked to run away with early.
Then Gauthier closed the door.
The junior forward took a solo rush into the zone, dangled his way past two Bulldog defenders and flipped a backhand shot top-shelf to give the Sault a 5-2 lead just over one minute into the third period.
"It was a 4-2 game, and we desperately needed that next goal," Rouleau said. "Then to go down three goals it was just a backbreaker. If we can make it a one-goal game it is a whole different hockey game, but then they get the three-goal lead and they start thinking more offense."
"You can't teach that kind of stuff," Ferroni added. "He is a very creative player who can see things other kids just can't."
With Hancock reeling, Sault kept on the pressure, pouring in four third-period goals and 51 shots for the game.
"We kept putting pucks on the net," Ferroni said. "And that's what you have to do. It was good to see that the guys didn't let up."
Facing off against an undefeated Houghton today, Ferroni said his guys are looking forward to the challenge with one of the top teams in Division 3.
"That is why we came here," he said. "We want to play these top teams. We need to withstand their initial rush. They are playing with a lot of confidence, and I think if we can keep ourselves in the game early we will get some of that confidence ourselves."