Gremlins win, 6-5, over Trojans in back-and-forth affair

Daily Mining Gazette/Eddie O’Neill Houghton’s Jimmy Pietila hangs onto a puck during the second period of a game against Traverse City Central Friday at Dee Stadium.

HOUGHTON — A very young Traverse City Trojans hockey team had their work cut out for them on Friday night as they stepped onto the ice at the Dee Ice Stadium to face the Houghton Gremlins. The Gremlins had yet to give up a goal and have proven to be very tough defensively thus far.

It is an annual tradition for teams from below the bridge to travel north to the face the Gremlins and the Hancock Bulldogs. The difference this year in this contest that the game looked more like David vs. Goliath with the Trojans being the team with the few stones and the slingshot. They have 14 freshmen and sophomores on a 19-man roster going up against a strong Houghton team full of upperclassmen.

While they did have the lead at times, they eventually fell short, losing to the Gremlins, 6-5.

“I have no complaints,” said Traverse City coach Chris Givens. “To compete with them, and at the end to almost tie the game, I can’t complain.”

After fighting their way back from a 4-1 deficit, the Gremlins stormed out to a 6-4 lead in the third with a pair of goals just 24 seconds apart from senior P.J. Donnelly and junior Nathan Erva. Donnelly’s goal came after the Gremlins kept the puck deep in the Trojans’ zone until senior Brad Gauthier found Donnelly in the left circle for a one-timer. Erva then followed with a well-timed shot off a pass from captain Kevin Bostwick.

“From the second period on, we dominated as we played like sandpaper and grit,” said Markham. “That is what Houghton hockey is about. We turned the switch on and got more pucks to the net.”

The Trojans struck first just 5:06 in when Chase Adams lifted a shot into the top-left side of the net past Gremlins goalie Matthew Ryynanen, who was making his first career start. Six minutes later, freshman Will Dawson drove a loose puck past the goal line for his first goal as a varsity player. In the second period, freshman Josh Stepke joined him in that club and suddenly the visitors were up 4-2.

“To have two freshmen score their first varsity goals tonight here against this team is a big deal for them,” said Givens. “I am very proud of them.”

Tucker Tapani evened things at 1-1 for the Gremlins at the 10:48 mark of the opening frame. He was assisted by Brendon Erickson, who fed Tapani a pass in the crease and he rifled a shot past Trojans goaltender Grant Neuhardt.

The Gremlins pulled back within one, 3-2, when Gautheier came off the faceoff and found the left side of the net just 4:23 into the second.

Their next goal came at the 7:36 mark when Erickson slapped a loose puck in front of the net past Neuhardt. Seth Francois flipped a loose puck that was bouncing around the crease into the net with just six seconds left in the second to tie things at 4-4 heading into the third.

The Trojans’ lone second period goal from Stepke, ending Ryynanen’s night at 6:27. He was replaced by sophomore Jimmy Pietila who finished the game between the pipes, surrendering one goal late in the contest off the stick of Ethan VanderRoest with just 20 seconds left.

The two teams combined for six total penalties, all of which came in the third period.

The Gremlins return to action today as they host Hartland at 1 p.m. at Dee Stadium. The Trojans head over to the Houghton County Arena to face Hancock at 1 p.m.

Scoring

Traverse City Central 3 1 1 – 5

Houghton 1 3 2 – 6

First period

1, TCC, Chase Adams (Josh Stepke, Nick Sommerfield), 5:06

2, HHS, Tucker Tapani (Brendan Erickson, Brad Gauthier), 10:48

3, TCC, Will Dawson (Evan McCombs, Sommerfield), 12:40

4, TCC, Drew Swanson (Seth Lucas), 13:51

Second period

5, HHS, Gauthier (Justin Norkol), 4:23

6, TCC, Stepke (McCombs, Gavin Graczyk), 6:27

7, HHS, Erickson (Norkol), 7:36

8, HHS, Seth Francois (Jiseung Choi, Nathan Erva), 16:54

Third period

9, HHS, P.J. Donnelly (Gauthier), 4:11

10, HHS, Erva (Kevin Bostwick, Francois), 4:35

11, TCC, Ethan VanderRoest (Sommerfield), 16:40

Saves

TCC, Neuhardt 4 12 8 – 24

HHS, Ryynanen/Pietila 4 10 5 – 19

Power plays

TCC: 0/4; HHS: 0/2

Penalties

TCC: 2/4; HHS: 4/8

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