HOUGHTON - With powerful Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood in the house, Houghton proved it can skate with the defending state champs, but will need another chance to prove it can beat them.
Cranbrook junior Sam Miletic scored all five of his team's goals as the Cranes pulled away late for a 5-1 non-league win at Dee Stadium Friday night.
"Overall, I thought we played well. Just not real happy with the ending," Houghton coach Corey Markham said.
Houghton’s Ray Brice goes in on Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood goaltender Tristan Neeb in the third period of Friday’s game at Dee?Stadium. Cranbrook came away with the 5-1 victory. (DMG photo by Brandon Veale)
For the first two-and-a-half periods, Houghton held a majority of the possession on Cranbrook, winners of six of the last 10 Division 3 state championships, but only turned it into a single goal.
"We had a couple of flurries where we had great possession. We had really good rotation on our forecheck and guys were getting to spots and holding pucks in, but they did a really nice job of keeping us out of the danger areas. We had a couple real nice shots on net and the rebounds would come out and we couldn't get a handle on them," Markham said.
Where the Gremlins didn't bury their chances, Miletic did. The junior forward, who is committed to the University of Michigan and has been selected in the United States and Ontario hockey league drafts, made a big difference alongside linemates Christopher Brown (Boston College) and Austin Alger.
Cranbrook 1 1 3 - 5
Houghton 1 0 0 - 1
First period - 1, CK, Sam Miletic (Christopher Brown, Austin Alger), 3:55; 2, HOU, Jed Kallio 3 (Connor Hannon), 14:29.
Second period - 3, CK, Miletic (Alger, Brown), 3:01.
Third period - 4, CK, Miletic (Cooper Stahl), 7:40; 5, CK, Miletic (Brown, Alger), 9:03; 6, CK, Miletic (Alger, Brown), 12:38.
Power-play opportunities - Cranbrook 0-for-3; Houghton 0-for-4.
Penalties - Cranbrook 4/8; Houghton 3/6
Goalie saves - CK, Tristan Neeb 21 (5-8-8); HOU, Marcus Gloss 25 (4-10-11).
"Sam's the type of player, he's an offensive threat and if you give him a little time he can make you pay," Cranbrook coach Andy Weidenbach said. "What he did tonight is he was flying down the wing and Alger and Brown were able to get him the puck. He had a couple of good opportunities and he was able to finish."
Miletic got his first a few minutes into the first period by sliding a low shot through traffic that got past Houghton goalie Marcus Gloss.
The Gremlins kept up the pressure and got their reward with 2:31 left in the frame as Connor Hannon won the a draw to his left, leading to a hard shot from Jed Kallio for the game-tying goal.
Face-offs were one of the problems Weidenbach discussed with his team after being outshot 6-5 in the first 17 minutes.
"I thought that Houghton controlled the first period. They were all over us. They had a lot of jump, they were playing with a lot of energy, their forecheck looked really good, they had us bottled up for most of the first period and they won almost all the face-offs. They were controlling the puck as well as the play," he said.
"In the second period, we addressed that in the dressing room and mentioned a few things and I thought we did a much better job of face-offs. We started to get some energy and we started to play a little better in the second period and as the game went on we got some key goals which changed momentum a little bit and really helped us."
Houghton held the puck on its side of the red line for the first two-plus minutes of the second period, only for Cranbrook's successful breakout to turn into a 2-on-1 for the top Cranes line. Alger provided the saucer pass for Miletic to convert for the Cranes' lead.
Houghton held its own well into the third but a shot from Cooper Stahl rebounded right to Miletic in the high slot and he wired the puck past Gloss for his hat trick.
"We didn't have our guy tying it up and he deposited it. That was the real backbreaker, the third goal," Markham said.
The Gremlins have been without their top defenseman, Tristan Foltz, since he broke a bone in his hand in the opener against Escanaba two weeks ago, making for some tough matchups.
"We had to try and control them and that line scored five goals," Markham said.
Miletic added two more late ensure Houghton's first loss in four games (3-1-0).
Marcus Gloss made 25 saves for the Gremlins, who must turn around for an afternoon game against Traverse City Central today.
"A couple bounces, it could have been a different game, but we were close," Markham said.