Hancock’s Nordstrom, Randell connect to turn tide in 4-2 victory over Houghton

Hancock’s Alex Nordstrom battles for the puck with Houghton’s Taavi Rajala (13) as Houghton’s Jiseung Choi looks on Tuesday, at the Houghton County Arena in Hancock. Hancock won 4-2. (David Archambeau/Daily Mining Gazette)

HANCOCK — When the Hancock Bulldogs need a goal, they know who to turn to.  

And as the closing minutes of the first period wound down with the Bulldogs trailing Houghton 2-0, getting on the scoreboard was vital. The Gremlins controlled play throughout the period, and Hancock needed a momentum shift. 

Cue Teddy Randell and Alex Nordstrom.  

Randell skated up the ice and sent the puck to Nordstrom, who immediately fed it back to his senior linemate for a give-and-go goal with 25 seconds left.  

“Most of their success is talent and instinct, but they work so hard,” Hancock coach Dan Rouleau said. “I think that is the thing that separates those two kids from a lot of great hockey players in our league. They are going to get on the scoresheet almost every single night. They are just that good.” 

The goal led to a Hancock comeback, and the Bulldogs came away with a 4-2 victory Tuesday at the Houghton County Arena.   

But long before Hancock netted a goal, Houghton came out ready to play and was aggressive from the start.  

The Gremlins fired two shots on Dawson Kero in the opening minutes. He made both saves, but Houghton set the tone.  

The Gremlins were in attack mode in the first period, recording 14 shots. An offensive team, Hancock was caught off guard. The Gremlins forced the Bulldogs into sloppy mistakes and turned those mistakes into chances on the other net. 

“They were out-hustling us, outworking us,” Rouleau said. “Any time there was a loose puck they were there and we weren’t. We would have a five to 10-foot lead on them and they would still get to the puck before we would.” 

Houghton scored first with 4:38 gone by in the period. Kero made a save, but the puck got loose and junior forward Seth Francois took advantage of the opportunity and found the back of the net.  

Then, with 2:08 left in the first Hancock was whistled for interference, and eight seconds later Francois lined up a shot and scored his second goal of the game and gave the Gremlins a 2-0 lead. 

“We were hungry to play and I thought we were on our toes early,” Houghton coach Corey Markham said. “We had great effort, we were moving our feet and we were getting pucks to the net.” 

Then came Randell’s goal.  

The play came early in the game, but it ultimately proved to be the difference. The timing couldn’t have been better for Hancock, or worse for Houghton.  

“It was absolutely huge,” Markham said. “We held them down and gave them very few opportunities, but that play gave them a lot of life and then they carried it over to the second and we were a little flat. They took advantage.” 

Houghton may have set the tone in the first, but Hancock took and maintained the momentum in the second and third periods, scoring three straight goals.  

The second period started with a penalty after just 42 seconds had ticked off the clock. Houghton was whistled for slashing and the Bulldogs (3-0) went on the power play. They got a good look with 15:28 on the clock, but freshman goalie James Pietila made a left-handed glove save. Then, as the final seconds of the play wound down, Nordstrom took a shot from the left side that ricocheted in front of the Houghton goal. Jakob Vettori was there to clean it up, tying the game at 2.  

Penalties were abundant throughout the contest with Hancock recording nine and Houghton tallying eight — eight of the 17 penalties came in the second period. As the whistles kept coming, both teams found it hard to get into a rhythm. 

“I thought we played a little better in the second, but the penalty situation, that is not the type of game we want to play,” Rouleau said. “I have three good lines I can roll, but when we are in the penalty box I’m only playing certain guys and I’m overplaying them more than I want. It just ruins the flow of the game.  

“All in all it was an ugly game. Not fun to watch and not fun to play in.” 

Hancock was able to battle through the sloppy second period and eventually take the lead in the third. At 7:05, after Houghton was whistled for a penalty the Bulldogs got a power-play goal from — Who else? — but Randell and Nordstrom. This time Nordstrom scored and Randell was credited with an assist.  

Then, with a minute left to play Houghton pulled Pietila from goal and Randell scored on an empty net to put the game out of reach.  

Despite the disappointing loss, Markham was impressed with his freshman goalie, who recorded 26 saves in his first varsity start. He also thinks the Gremlins (0-2) are in a good position going forward.  

 “I don’t think there is a huge gap between the two teams, so I am encouraged,” he said. “We need to get better, but I do like the trajectory of this team and where we are headed.” 

Next, Hancock hosts Hartland at 4 p.m. on Friday, while Houghton welcomes Traverse City Central at 7 p.m. on the same day.

– – –

Houghton      2  0  0 – 2

Hancock        1  1  2 – 4

First period

Houghton – Seth Francois (Derrian Raffaelli), 4:38, 1-0. 

Houghton – Francois (Kevin Bostwick, Brendan Erickson), 15:00, 2-0.

Hancock – Teddy Randell (Alex Nordstrom), 16:35, 2-1.

Second period

Hancock – Jakob Vettori (Nordstrom), 2:47, 2-2.

Third period 

Hancock – Nordstrom (Randell), 7:05, 3-2.

Hancock – Randell, 16:34, 4-2.

Saves

Houghton, James Pietila  6 9 11 – 26

Hancock, Dawson Kero  12 9 4 – 25

Penalties

Houghton: 8/16; Hancock: 9/21. 

Power plays

Houghton: 1/8, Hancock: 1/7. 

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