Too little, too late
Redmen hold off Gremlins’ late charge to come away with a victory
HOUGHTON — In a game between two very even combatants, ½ inch was the difference as the Houghton Gremlins hockey team came up that short against the Marquette Redmen on Thursday night at the Dee Stadium.
With 8 seconds left in the contest, the Gremlins had a faceoff in the offensive zone to Redmen goaltender Tyler Bergwall’s left. Though they lost the draw, sophomore Justin Norkol raced over to the boards to keep a clearing attempt from getting out of the zone. With just two seconds left on the clock, Norkol wound up and blasted a shot at Bergwall. Assistant captain Taavi Rajala tipped the shot over Bergwall, but the puck hit the crossbar and bounced back out front, rather than into the net.
Gremlins coach Corey Markham was happy with his team’s performance.
“I thought that was as hard as we had competed in a while,” said Markham. “Two evenly-matched teams, and just like last time, they beat us by a goal.”
For coach Doug Garrow’s Redmen, it was the second straight 2-1 game against a Copper Country opponent. They lost on Tuesday to Hancock. While they won the game, Garrow was more concerned with making sure his team used the game as a springboard for the upcoming Regional playoffs.
“I thought we played both well both games,” said Garrow. “I really wasn’t concerned about winning or losing coming up here. I told them to just make sure we are getting ready for playoffs.”
After a scoreless first period, it did not take long for the Redmen (13-8-2 overall, 6-4-0 GLHC) to break through in the second period. On a power play, something that has not been at all consistent for the Redmen all season, they found a way to get a puck past Gremlins goaltender Will Stier.
Ethan Jones knocked down a clearing attempt near the Redmen bench and quickly moved the puck across the blue line to Thomas Dunlevy. Dunlevy did not get all of the puck, but he got enough to send it through traffic. The puck eluded Stier by wobbling past his right hip at 3:22.
For the Redmen, a simplified attack with traffic in front was what worked on that advantage.
“I thought we did a good job of just getting the puck to the net,” said Garrow. “That was our second unit on the power play and they don’t get a lot of time. Good things happen when you get pucks to the net.”
The Gremlins stormed back and bottled up the Redmen in their own end for the next 1 ½ minutes, but despite getting the puck to assistant captain Dawson McKay in the left circle for a “Grade A” scoring chance, Marquette remained in the lead.
The Gremlins (14-10-0 overall, 6-7-0 GLHC) peppered Bergwall with 12 shots in the period in total, but the sophomore stood his ground and kept his team in the lead until they could figure out how to help him out by striking a second time.
With several Redmen and Gremlins jockeying for position near Stier, Spencer Samppala fired a shot that hit a stick in front of Stier, kicked up and over the Gremlins’ netminder at 13:30.
That goal would stand as the game-winner.
Just over three minutes into the third period, Gremlins captain Jacob Kruse, who was strong on the puck all night, drew a power play by driving hard to the net and forcing Samppala to hold him to keep him from scoring.
Kruse and the rest of the Gremlins’ top unit took the ice and needed nearly the whole two minutes, but they eventually found a way to beat Bergwall when Goudge moved the puck across the blue line to Norkol for a shot from the right point with Kruse causing traffic in front. Norkol’s shot bounced near Kruse’s feet and then snuck through Bergwall at 5:50.
“I thought Jake worked really hard [Thursday],” said Markham of Kruse. “He was really motoring in his last game here. He had some opportunities.”
Bergwall had to come up big for the Redmen on a shot from sophomore Brendan Erickson that sophomore P.J. Donnelly tipped.
The Redmen were awarded a power play with about seven minutes left in regulation and they peppered Stier with several shots, but could not solve him again.
Neither team could gain an advantage in the first period, but Bergwall came up big on the Gremlins twice. The first was on a breakaway from Lentowich. Lentowich was alone from center ice, attempted to deke to his backhand, but was stopped.
The Gremlins have just one game left before the Regional Tournament. They will face the Jeffers Jets on Tuesday at the MacInnes Student Ice Arena.
Marquette 0 2 0 – 2
Houghton 0 0 1 – 1
1, MHS, Thomas Dunlevy (Ethan Jones), PP, 3:22
2, MHS, Spencer Samppala (Jones), 13:30
3, HHS, Justin Norkol (Austin Goudge, Jacob Kruse), PP, 5:50
MHS, Bergwall 6 12 5 – 22
HHS, Stier 10 4 12 – 26
MHS: 4/8; HHS: 3/6
MHS: 1/3; HHS: 1/4