Gremlins earn 3-1 win over Brother Rice Friday

Daily Mining Gazette/Eddie O’Neill Houghton’s Jimmy Pietila kneels in preparation for a shot from a Brother Rice forward while teammate Justin Norkol (9) helps during a game Friday at the Dee Stadium.

HOUGHTON — In the game of sports, often all it takes is the the slightest mistake on either the offense or the defense end of the action to be a game changer. That is how Ken Chaput, coach of the Brother Rice Warriors surmised his team’s 3-1 loss to the Houghton Gremlins on Friday at the Dee Stadium.

“I thought we battled them and outshot them in those first two periods, but there is always that one breakdown or little mistake that happens and then the puck ends up in our net,” he said. “Tonight’s game was a microcosm of our season.”

Much of the first period was spent feeling each out as there was a lot of skating back and forth but not much offensive push from either side. The Warriors put 11 shots on goal while the Gremlins fired six. Neither team could find the net.

“I felt our guys were nervous in the first,” said Gremlins coach Corey Markham. “They were timid and just slapping at the puck as I think they were afraid of making a mistake. Between periods I told the guys that they needed to control the puck better and make tape-to-tape passes. I thought Brother Rice had a few more opportunities than us and that we were lucky to get out of the first tied at zero.”

Both squads came out a little more feistier in the second and hungry for a goal. There were a number of hard hits into the boards on both ends of the ice and the pace of the game picked up.

With the increased level of effort came penalties called in both directions and twice the teams each sent players to the box at the same time.

The “chink in the armor” for the Warriors occurred after they dominated the ice and scored a goal of their own at 9:42. Team captain Ethan Angstrom launched a pass from Alex Andoni that sailed pass Houghton goalie Jimmy Pietila. While it looked great on the scoreboard, their reward for their hard work was short-lived as the Gremlins bounced back less than a minute later.

Houghton’s Niko Rajala capitalized on a loose puck fed out from the corner by P.J. Donnelly that defected off the pads of Warriors goaltender Matteo Vitale.

“It was a turnover in the corner and we couldn’t recover,” said Chaput. “All that work and we were back to square one, or in this case tied at one, after two periods of play.”

Markham noted that the “quick-answer” goal from his team was a huge momentum changer for his team.

With the score tied at one and 17 minutes of hockey left, the game could have gone either way.

“Going into the third, I told the guys that we were fortunate to be tied at one and we need to take advantage of that,” Markham said. “I thought the kids did and worked really hard.”

The game-winning goal came at 9:06 when Brenden Erickson carried the puck in past the blue line and made a perfect pass to Jett Heinonen who lifted it into the left corner of the net.

“That was huge to take the lead,” Markham said.

The Warriors had their chances to come back and tie it, but the Gremlins picked up their defense and had the Warriors simply passing the puck back-and forth around the blue line and not able to find a line on goal.

“Kevin Bostwick was very strong for us on defense,” said Markham. “His play really stood out in the third. Also hats off to Pietila who did a find job in the nets for us tonight. His play just keeps getting better.”

Pietila stopped 29 shots on goal to earn the win.

The Gremlins moved to 12-3-1 on the season with the victory.

Scoring

Brother Rice 0 1 0 – 1

Houghton 0 1 2 – 3

First period

None

Second period

1, BBR, Ethan Nystrom (Alex Andoni), 9:42

2, HHS, Niko Rajala (P.J. Donnelly), 10:28

Third period

3, HHS, Jett Heinonen (Brendan Erickson, Tucker Tapani), 9:06

4, HHS, Donnelly (Kevin Bostwick), EN, 16:10

Saves

BBR, Vitale 6 10 8 – 24

HHS, Pietila 11 11 7 – 29

Power plays

BBR: 0/2; HHS: 0/0

Penalties

BBR: 3/6; HHS: 5/10

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