Gremlins cruise to Wing Ding rivalry victory over Bulldogs
HANCOCK — What should have taken three hockey periods only took two as the Houghton Gremlins shutout the Hancock Bulldogs in merciful fashion, 8-0, on Friday night at a packed Houghton County Arena. With the win, the Gremlins kept the Don Miller Wing Ding Trophy for the second year in a row.
It was quite a contrast to last year’s game where it took the Gremlins an overtime to get a 4-3 victory against their cross-town rivals.
“The boys wanted it tonight,” said Houghton coach Corey Markham. “The guys were amped up to play and came out and played extremely hard, and we were really good tonight.”
Both teams came out of the opening faceoff fast and furious trying to move the puck up the ice. However, just three minutes into the period, the Gremlins dominated the offensive play. They took advantage of a cross-checking penalty committed by Hancock’s Bryce Randell at the 7:02 mark. Only 24 seconds into the power play, Houghton’s P.J. Donnelly fired a slap shot from the far circle and it scooted past the pads of Hancock’s goaltender Philip Rios.
It was the first of four goals that the Gremlins scored while on the power play over the course of the game.
Two and a half minutes later, Justin Norkol got in on the action with a similar goal as Donnelly’s. He took a pass from forward Brendan Erickson and lifted the puck from the near circle and found the back of the net.
At 12:57, Erickson got a goal of his own when a shot came in off of Ty Halonen and he grabbed and flipped it up past Rios’ stick.
Less than a minute later, the Gremlins would add one more. They were up a man as Hancock’s Petr Anderson was sent to the box for cross checking. With the advantage, captain Kevin Bostwick was able to find an open shot in front of the net thanks to a perfect pass from Halonen.
“In that first period, our passing was excellent,” said Markham.
The Bulldogs were not without some scoring opportunities of their own. They had two power-play chances but could not capitalize.
The second period did not get any better for the Bulldogs. Frustrations boiled over as the game got more physical and more Bulldogs were sent to the penalty box. Even the goaltender, Rios, got into the action as he was involved in a pushing and shoving match at 11:46 and called for roughing.
The Bulldogs racked up 10 minutes in penalties in the second and the the Gremlins scored their final two goals of the period with the man-up advantage. The first was at 7:02 when Erickson found the back of the net for the second time on a loose puck in the crease. The last goal on the night came with less than a minute left when Niko Rajala took a pass from Norkol and slapped it pas the goalie to end the game. With the eighth goal, the game ended due to the mercy rule.
“This was a team effort,” Markham said. “The kids work effort was on display. We played three lines tonight and everyone put in a solid effort.”
On the other bench, coach Dan Rouleau was obviously quite disappointed in being shutout in such a big game. He did note that because of school closing due to snow this week that his team did not get in many practices. But that he said was no excuse. He made sure not to point fingers at anyone but noted that it was a team loss.
“These kids know how to play this game, and they didn’t play it like they know how,” he said.
Houghton 4 4 – 8
Hancock 0 0 – 0
1, HHS, P.J. Donnelly (Kevin Bostwick, Brendan Erickson), PP, 7:26
2, HHS, Justin Norkol (Erickson), 9:48
3, HHS, Erickson (Ty Halonen, Schaefer), 12:57
4, HHS, Bostwick (Halonen), PP, 13:54
5, HHS, Jett Heinonen (Norkol), 1:45
6, HHS, Donnelly (Bostwick, Brad Gauthier), 2:41
7, HHS, Erickson (Niko Rajala, Bostwick), PP, 7:02
8, HHS, Rajala (Norkol, Bostwick), PP, 16:06
HHS, Pietila 9
HCH, Rios 19
HHS: 7/14; HCH: 8/16