Gremlins defeat Novi 3-2 to end losing streak
HOUGHTON — Looking for a better start than the one they had on Friday night against Orchard Lake St. Mary’s, the Houghton Gremlins hockey team had just that as they struck on a power play early on and never looked back, beating the Novi Wildcats, 3-2, Saturday afternoon at Dee Stadium.
“When you go scoreless the game before, you want that for the morale of the team,” said Gremlins coach Corey Markham about getting the game’s first goal. “We got the early goal. I thought we came out strong. I would have liked to see a little bit more after that, but that definitely is a stepping stone for the team.”
The Gremlins had two goals from captain Jacob Kruse in the game, which helped drive their offense.
“Our top line has to lead us,” said Markham. “They are the guys we are counting on for scoring. Our top line has to do the majority of it. Two out of the three goals was important [Saturday].”
While they ended up on the losing end, Wildcats coach Mark Vellucci was also pleased with his team’s effort as they fought back to tie the game in the second period and had two very good looks to even the game in the dying seconds after pulling goaltender Manny Legace.
“I thought we got the jump in the first there,” said Vellucci. “Once we got our legs moving and warmed up, it was definitely there in the second and third…We had a chance to tie the game.”
The Gremlins took advantage of an early power play and made the Wildcats pay for their mistake when Kruse took a pass coming out of the defensive zone from sophomore Kevin Bostwick. Kruse drove around a Novi defender and skated in close before beating Legace over the right shoulder at 3 minutes, 24 seconds.
Just under five minutes later, Kruse skated behind the Wildcats’ net and fed the puck out front to assistant captain Taavi Rajala, but the junior’s shot was stopped by Legace.
On another power play late in the opening frame, the Gremlins nearly opened up a two-goal lead at the buzzer when senior Ronald Olson wired a wrist shot that beat Legace over the glove. It was determined that the puck crossed the goal line after the period ended.
Novi had trouble containing Houghton’s top line of Kruse, Rajala and assistant captain Dawson McKay early in the second period, leading to a quality scoring chance for Kruse that Legace had to blocker away.
Kruse’s line continued to pressure the Wildcats’ defense in the latter stages of the frame leading to a another good scoring chance for Rajala off a pass from Kruse on a 3-on-2 break, but again Legace was there to make the stop.
With the score still 1-0 heading into the late stages of the frame, Novi need a spark and it came off the stick of Zach Perpich at 14:47. Perpich had found a soft spot in the Gremlins defense and fired a quick shot after taking a pass from Ryan Fonda.
The Wildcats kept the pressure on for the first shift after the goal, but the Gremlins weathered the storm and regained the lead less than a minute later when Kruse took a pass from senior Quintin Stachowiak and found a hole in Legace at 15:33.
Bostwick, who had suffered an injury against Orchard Lake St. Mary’s on Friday and was a gametime decision on Saturday, extended the Gremlins’ lead 3:36 into the third on another Gremlins power play.
The goal would stand as the game-winner.
“That was real nice,” said Markham. “Kevin took a quick shot, it wasn’t a big slap shot, but a quick snap shot…great location, and he scored his first goal of the year. [It was a] good all around play.”
The teams could not find much open room on either end of the rink after that until Houghton drew a major power play just over halfway through. However, it was the Wildcats who had the better of the opportunities as Logan Londo and Alex Scarozza had chances, but neither got past Gremlins goaltender Will Stier.
Just after the major ended, however, the Gremlins were still in their own end and that allowed Cam Czapski to cut their lead to one, 3-2, with a goal at 13:13.
“I credit our guys,” said Vellucci. “We didn’t give up, even when it was 3-1. We didn’t quit, and you can’t ask more than that.”
With just 28 seconds left, the Wildcats had a faceoff in the Gremlins zone with Legace pulled. Kruse took advantage of a miscue right off the faceoff and exploded out of the Houghton end with the puck. He skated it into the offensive zone before throwing a backhand at the gaping net, but his shot hit the near post and bounced away.
Novi 0 1 1 – 2
Houghton 1 1 1 – 3
1, HHS, Jacob Kruse (Kevin Bostwick, Justin Norkol), PP, 3:24
2, NHS, Zach Perpich (Ryan Fonda), 14:47
3, HHS, Kruse (Quintin Stachowiak, Taavi Rajala), 15:33
4, HHS, Bostwick (Norkol, Derrian Raffaelli), PP, 3:36
5, NHS, Cam Czapski (Logan Londo), 13:13
NHS, Legace 12 5 6 – 33
HHS, Stier 8 7 6 – 19
NHS: 6/15; HHS: 2/4
NHS: 0/1; HHS: 2/5