HANCOCK - Last year at this time, Jacob Givens wasn't playing hockey. Last week at this time, Givens was firmly Hancock's No. 2 goaltender. Saturday, the Bulldogs rode Givens' hot hand to their two best victories of the season on back-to-back days.
Givens made 43 saves and another red-hot Bulldog, Brett Lepisto, scored the only goal of the game in the first minute of the third period as Hancock handed Fond du Lac, Wis., its first loss of the season at Houghton County Arena.
Givens tried out for the 2011-12 Bulldogs as a defenseman, didn't make it and sat out the season. When tryouts rolled around this year, Givens knew he had some goaltending experience and coach Dan Rouleau needed some depth at the position, so he got the pads out.
Hancock goaltender Jacob Givens celebrates with teammates, including Jack Fenton (16),?at the final buzzer of a 1-0 victory over Fond du Lac, Wis., Saturday afternoon at Houghton County Arena in Hancock. Givens made 43 saves for the shutout. (DMG photo by Brandon Veale)
The junior earned the win in relief Tuesday at Kingsford, gave up just two goals in a Friday rout of Marquette, and was perfect Saturday.
"Man, just an outstanding effort today. He's seeing the puck real well. Controlled his rebounds great. He deserved the shutout," Rouleau said.
Givens had several excellent saves, but his best might have come with just 24.9 seconds left when, while prone, he lifted his head and glove just quickly enough to snare a point-blank shot from Ty Rebedew.
Fond du Lac 0 0 0 - 0
Hancock 0 0 1 - 0
First period - no scoring.
Second period - no scoring.
Third period - 1, HAN, Brett Lepisto 13 (Hunter Kero, Dylan Hanke), :28.
Power-play opportunities - Fond du Lac 0-for-5, Hancock 0-for-4.
Penalties - Fond du Lac 4/8, Hancock 5/10.
Goalie saves - FDL, William Shober 16 (4-10-2); HAN, Jacob Givens 43 (8-18-17).
"I just went desperation mode, pretty much, and threw my whole body across (the crease) and stopped that," Givens said.
Fond du Lac won its first 13 games of the season and was ranked No. 2 in the state by wisconsinprephockey.net.
"This is hockey. Sometimes you run into a hot goaltender. Hancock played emotionally and played well and we just couldn't get that equalizer down the stretch," Fond du Lac coach Ryan Sarazin said.
After a relatively inconsequential first period, business picked up in the second. Hancock recorded 10 shots on goal and made sure many of the 18 from the visitors were to the outside or cleaned up quickly to avoid rebounds.
"They were in our lanes, frustrating us, blocking shots," Sarazin said.
On the first shift of the third, the Bulldogs found their opening. Lepisto, who had four goals the day before against Marquette, jumped on a loose puck at the top of the right circle. It flew cleanly through a mass of bodies and ripped the twine 28 seconds in.
"The goal we scored, you can't blame the goalie," Rouleau said. "That went through eight people. I was just glad to hear the horn go off because there was so many people I couldn't see the net."
Fond du Lac appeared to have tied it up at 7:29 when it got first to a Givens rebound that went straight up into the air, but the referees ruled it was played by a high Cardinal stick.
The Cardinals outshot the Bulldogs 17-3 in the third period, but got nothing but their first loss.
Rouleau said the team has been inspired by the on-ice example of late Portage Lake Pioneer Roger Lewis.
"The guys always loved watching him play. We told the guys, 'Play how Roger would play.' Ever since we did that the guys have been playing great," Rouleau said.
The Bulldogs (6-7) host Negaunee Thursday in Lake Superior Hockey Conference play.