Explosive Hancock stifled by Hartland in 2-1 loss
HANCOCK — The Hartland Eagles came to the Copper Country with a plan: Don’t let Alex Nordstrom and Teddy Randell beat them.
Hancock’s explosive scoring duo each entered Friday’s matchup between two top-ranked teams with 11 points after three games. But besides an assist by Nordstrom on Colton Salani’s goal in the final seconds, the two were held off the scoresheet in Hartland’s 2-1 win at the Houghton County Arena.
“We just tried to put our best against them,” Hartland coach Rick Gadwa said of defending Nordstrom and Randell. “We spent all game trying to shut them down, and I thought we did a pretty good job of that, but they’re special players. They’re tough to stop.”
Nordstrom and Randell led a Hancock attack that finished with 38 shots, but Hartland’s Brett Tome recorded 37 saves to stifle a Hancock team that entered with 16 goals through three games.
“He was special tonight, and he has that special kind of talent when he’s seeing it right,” Gadwa said of Tome. “He tracked well, and he competed better than anyone else out there today.”
Hancock was still not without its opportunities.
Trailing 1-0, just as the second period wound down, Nordstrom and Randell each fired shots on goal but were stuffed by Tome.
On a 5-on-3 in the third period, Salani carried the puck down the ice and attempted to beat Tome from the top of the crease but was denied.
And in desperation mode down 2-0 with 2:36 left in the third, Nordstrom sent a centering pass to Randell that was broken up by Hartland’s Joey Larson.
“We just got to get pucks deep and forecheck the defense,” Hancock coach Dan Rouleau said. “Thirty-eight shots seems pretty good, but I thought in the first and early in the second period, most of our shots were beyond the perimeter. But I thought late in the second and in the third, we started to take the puck to the net more, and I think that’s where we got most of our shots by bringing it to the scoring areas.”
Fourteen of Hancock’s shots came in the second, while 15 were in the third. It wasn’t until a scramble in front of the net on another 5-on-3 that Salani was able to make sure Hancock avoided the shutout. But with just 11 seconds remaining, there wasn’t enough time to mount a serious attack for the equalizer.
Hartland (4-0) entered with the No. 2 state ranking in Division 2, and Hancock (3-1) came in as the top-ranked team in Division 3. In a battle of two of the premier teams in the state, right away, it was evident that both teams were attempting to set the tone in a hard-hitting first period.
“We wanted to try to get physical and match grit with grit,” Gadwa said. “I know Hancock has a skilled team, but they always play tough, and we expect that. (Being physical) was part of the game plan, and I thought we did a good job of getting physical and getting hard after it.”
After a scoreless first, Hartland finally broke the deadlock 13:19 into the second when Jake Behnke worked his way to the slot and snapped a one-timer to beat Hancock’s Dawson Kero off an assist from Josh Albring, who is a candidate for this season’s Mr. Hockey Award in Michigan.
“That’s something we practice every week,” Gadwa said about the goal. “It’s a center-lane drive, and once we finally established that, it opened up Jake in the high slot.
“We had to work and work. I think Hancock gave us two chances, those two goals we got, were their only two mistakes. They were great defensively, so we were lucky enough to capitalize on those.”
Hartland went ahead 2-0 4:49 into the third period when Brandan Tulpa scored off assists from Benjamin Tervo and Larson.
Kero ended up finishing with 29 saves.
“I thought our defense played well,” Rouleau said. “I think (Hartland) is one of the top teams in the state. I hope we are. It remains to be seen, yet, and I would like to knock off one of the top teams. But all in all, I feel like we’re a top 10 team.”
Next, Hancock hosts Traverse City Central today at 1 p.m.
– – –
Hartland 0 1 1 – 2
Hancock 0 0 1 – 1
Hartland – Jake Benke (Josh Albring, Max McIllmurray), 13:19, 1-0
Hartland – Brandan Tulpa (Benjamin Tervo, Joey Larson), 4:49, 2-0
Hancock – Colton Salani (Alex Nordstrom, Bryce Randell), 16:49, 2-1
Hartland: Brett Tome 9 14 14 – 37
Hancock: Dawson Kero 8 12 9 – 29
Hartland: 9/26; Hancock: 5/10.
Hartland: 0/5; Hancock: 1/8.