HANCOCK - Maybe in a few months, what Houghton accomplished Thursday night will resonate a little more, but for now, the Gremlins' 7-2 win over Hancock takes a back seat to a bigger mission.
Houghton completed a perfect 12-0 record in its first run through the Great Lakes Hockey Conference, but coach Corey Markham didn't believe Thursday's game created any momentum for the Gremlins' postseason bid, which begins next Thursday in the Division 3 regionals against L'Anse at MacInnes Student Ice Arena.
"It means absolutely nothing. It's a clean slate for sure going into next week," he said.
Houghton’s Reid Pietila handles the puck behind the net in the second period of Thursday’s game at Hancock’s Houghton County Arena. Dylan Paavola of the Bulldogs tries to poke the puck away as goaltender William Lucier looks on. Houghton won 7-2. (DMG photo by Brandon Veale)
For Hancock, which recognized a large senior class before the game, the ceremonies were memorable but the performance was not, and the Bulldogs will be quick to erase this one from their memory banks as well.
"We definitely have to look at it that way after a game like this,"
Hancock coach Dan Rouleau said.
Houghton 3 2 2 - 7
Hancock 0 1 1 - 2
First period - 1, HOU, Connor Hannon (Casey Markham), :11; 2, HOU, Hannon (Reid Pietila, Riley McKay), 4:13; 3, HOU, Pietila (Hannon, Tristan Foltz), 8:08.
Second period - 4, HAN, Brett Lepisto (Wade Hanke), 4:46; 5, HOU, Cale Markham (Spencer Donnelly, Cole Jepsen), 9:20; 6, HOU, Jed Kallio (Hannon), 13:30 (PP).
Third period - 7, HOU, Pietila (Foltz, Chad Dunstan), 6:53; 8, HAN, Hanke (Kyle Hauswirth, Dylan Paavola), 12:55 (PP); 9, HOU, Ray Brice (Kallio), 14:10.
Power-play opportunities - HOU, 1-for-5; HAN, 1-for-5
Penalties - HOU 6/12; HAN 6/12.
Goalie saves - HOU, Marcus Gloss 20 (10-3-7); HAN, Jacob Givens 3 (3-x-x); William Lucier 23 (4-10-9).
Earlier this month, a Bulldog victory during Wing Ding week appeared to demonstrate the gap between the Gremlins and Bulldogs had significantly tightened. The jury to settle that may meet in a week and a half, but Thursday, it was an open-and-shut case.
Houghton's Connor Hannon scored 11 seconds into the game, while the Bulldogs still had a ceremonial all-senior unit on the ice. He added a second at 4:13 and assisted Reid Pietila on a third as Houghton gripped the game firmly before half the first period was over.
"I thought we forechecked well and all three lines were going hard. We kept the puck in their end a little bit more than we had in the Wing Ding game," Hannon said.
The third goal brought about a goaltending change for the Bulldogs, with William Lucier stabilizing the situation in relief.
Hancock got on the board 4:46 into the second period when senior Brett Lepisto flipped a backhander behind Houghton goalie Marcus Gloss from the right circle.
That was as close as Hancock got, however. Cale Markham bagged a goal from the right circle to put Houghton up 4-1 just past halfway, capping an effective performance from he and linemates Spencer Donnelly and Wyatt Liston, coach Markham said.
"They were really strong tonight. They had great shifts, great rotation on the forecheck and they did a good job of holding the puck in," he said.
Hannon briefly had a hat trick, his second in three days, before Houghton's fifth goal, at 13:20, was re-credited to Jed Kallio.
Still, it was a big night for Houghton's top players, as Hannon had four points and Pietila three.
"Being that close and being with your friends all the time, stuff just starts to click and it was clicking tonight," Hannon said.
Pietila's second goal of the game and a Ray Brice tally served as insurance goals in an otherwise inconsequential third period.
Rouleau didn't point to a lack of mental focus as an issue, given the rivalry opponent, but didn't like his squad's success rate in puck battles or the number of times Houghton players beat Hancock off the wall.
"I thought our D, in the (Dee Stadium) game, handled their rush really well. We didn't quite handle it as well tonight, but they'll bounce back," he said.
Wade Hanke added a third-period goal for the Bulldogs (15-7-3), who ended up third of seven teams in the GLHC standings at 7-3-2 after Escanaba beat Kingsford Thursday. Hancock faces a quick turnaround, as it will meet Calumet in the first-round game of the regional tournament Tuesday night.
Lucier stopped 23 shots in relief of Givens, who made three saves. For Houghton (22-3), Gloss made 20 of 22 saves.