Stung by Yellowjackets: Gremlins score first, but cannot hang on in loss to defending champs

Tim Arrick/For the Gazette Houghton’s Seth Francois shoots the puck from one knee during Saturday’s Division 3 state final game against Detroit Country Day at the USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth, Michigan. Francois scored on the play.

PLYMOUTH, Mich. — Despite getting off to the type of start they wanted, the Houghton Gremlins hockey team could never quite establish the type of game they wanted to in the Division 3 state final game against defending champion Detroit Country Day. The Yellowjackets ended up skating away from the USA Hockey Arena with a 4-1 victory.

“They started taking over the first period, outplaying us and beating us to pucks, outmanning us,” said Gremlins coach Corey Markham. “(The) second period, I thought was pretty even, they got the lead late. We had our opportunity five-on-three…we didn’t score and to top it off, they scored, and that was the key point in the game.”

Trailing 2-1 in the third, the Gremlins opened on a lengthy two-man advantage and fired off four or five really good shots at Yellowjackets goaltender Sam Evola, who stood his ground and kept the Yellowjackets in the lead. His hard work paid off after the second penalty ended as VanAntwerp helped him out with an insurance marker.

After Detroit Country Day got the puck deep into the Houghton end of the rink, they put pressure on the Gremlins’ defense, causing a turnover. Logan Gotinsky, who already had one assist in the game, got his second as he picked off a clearing pass and moved the puck quickly to VanAntwerp, who drove across the slot and found a way to beat Pietila to the far post while falling to extend the Yellowjackets’ lead to two, 3-1.

Much like Friday’s semifinal game, the Gremlins struck early as senior winger Seth Francois surprised Evola with a wrist shot from one knee in the high slot. Junior winger Jiseung Choi created chaos on the forecheck by forcing a bad pass by a Yellowjackets defender. Senior center Brendan Erickson stole the pass and it over to Francois, who was knocked down, but still got the shot off.

“For us to a score a goal first was huge,” Markham said. “The first five minutes, we were strong.

“They were a very good defensive team, They did a good job of keeping us to the outside.”

From there, the Yellowjackets controlled much of the pacing of the opening frame by earning a power play and pinning the Gremlins in their own end for most of it. They got a couple of shots through to Houghton goaltender Jimmy Pietila, but nothing got past the sophomore.

The Yellowjackets kept the pressure on, and drew a second power play after the Gremlins had a man advantage of their own.

During that second advantage for Detroit, they one really good look off the stick of 25 before finally breaking through at 15:22.

Dallas Hood moved the puck across the blue line to Lucas Krol at the left point. Krol wasted little time firing a wrister just off the ice that found its way past Pietila, who was screened on the play.

It was the first two goals for Krol on the day, the second being an empty-netter with 52 seconds remaining in the contest.

Krol and Mickey VanAntwerp created matchup problems throughout the game for the Gremlins as the pair of fast skaters created a lot of space with their speed.

“When we were killing penalties, our top guys got tired,” said Markham. “That was a big part of it. (The Yellowjackets) had a lot of energy. They played a really solid game.”

The game remained 1-1 for most of the second period despite scoring chances at both ends.

VanAntwerp had several close looks, but missed the net on one, fanned on another, and also had a wraparound attempt that hit the post to Pietila’s left after Choi was setup in front by Francois, but could not pull the trigger before getting the puck knocked away.

Francois had a couple of great looks of his own with 4:16 left in the middle frame when he attempted a wraparound and then had the rebound bounce back to him not once, not twice, but three times. Each time, Evola was there to make the save.

Hood finally broke the 1-1 tie with 1:20 left in the period when he got the puck in the left circle with two Gremlins near him. He got bumped around a little bit, but he also got loose and fired a shot that snuck under a falling Ty Halonen and past Pietila.

In the latter stages of the game, the Gremlins finally established their forecheck and started getting several pucks through to Evola, but the senior was there to make the stop time and time again.

Markham pulled Pietila with 2:33 left and the Gremlins drew a penalty shortly after, giving themselves a two-man advantage. However, a faceoff win by Bostwick went awry as the puck sailed out of the reach of Norkol and down the ice until Krol got it and found the net for the final tally of the day.

Scoring

Houghton 1 0 0 – 1

Country Day 1 1 2 – 4

First period

1, HHS, Seth Francois (Brendan Erickson), :56

2, DCD, Lucas Krol (Dallas Hood, Logan Gotinsky), 15:23

Second period

3, DCD, Hood (Joshua Rice, Noah Thewes), 15:40

Third period

4, DCD, Mickey VanAntwerp (Gotinsky), 2:01

5, DCD, Krol, EN, 16:08

Saves

HHS, Pietila 12 4 7 – 23

DCD, Evola 3 9 13 – 26

Power plays

HHS: 0/6; DCD: 0/4

Penalties

HHS: 4/8; DCD: 6/12

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