Gremlins prepared to face Pioneers in semifinals
PLYMOUTH — With a 4-1 win Wednesday over the Alpena Wildcats, the Houghton Gremlins hockey team earned a spot in the Division 3 state semifinals Friday morning at 11 a.m. The Gremlins are facing the Riverview Gabriel Richard Pioneers, a team that needed overtime to defeat the Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard Irish, 4-3.
In order for the Gremlins to be successful yet again, they are going to need to continued to stick to their “M.O.” as coach Corey Markham puts it.
“Just like Coach said before the (regional) tournament, we are relentless,” said captain Kevin Bostwick. “(In) our forecheck, we are relentless. We are working hard every single shift all over the ice. (We are) trying to win as many one-on-one battles as we can.”
The Gremlins feature a number of players having strong playoff performances.
It all starts with assistant captain P.J. Donnelly, who has three goals and eight points in three games. Bostwick has two goals and four assists.
Another senior who has really stepped up is defenseman Justin Norkol. Norkol scored twice against the Wildcats on Wednesday.
“(I am) so proud of them,” said Markham. “I wanted them to be able to experience a regional championship more than anything. Ultimately, I want them to experience a state championship.”
Meanwhile, junior Carson Stevens has quietly put up two goals and three points in three games after scoring just three goals and nine points in 25 regular season games.
Sophomore goaltender Jimmy Pietila continues to be impressive in the playoffs, where he has earned three more victories to improve to 16-4-1 on the season and he has shaved his goals against average down from 1.79 to 1.79 and improved his save percentage up to .919.
“I will take him any day of the week,” said Markham. “His compete level is so high all the time.”
The Pioneers finished their regular season with a record of 13-10-1 overall and a 3-6-1 record in the Metro League East, good fifth place. The East includes University Liggett, Allen Park, Detroit Country Day, one of the semifinalists, and Brownstown Woodhaven, a Division 2 school.
The Pioneers are led by junior Nathan Vazquez, who has team highs in goals (17) and points (34) in 24 games. Senior Chance DeSana has also been good, scoring 14 goals and 25 points in 22 games.
In goal, junior Drew Adams went 12-9-1 in 23 appearances with a 2.75 goals against average and a .914 save percentage.
Vazquez had a strong regional tournament, scoring six goals and eight points. DeSana was also good, picking up four goals and seven points. Junior Jake Emery was also quietly strong with seven assists.
Adams was also very good, putting up a 1.74 goals against average and a .924 save percentage.
Throughout the season, the Pioneers outscored opponents in the opening frame, 23-17, which often gave them the boost they needed to win.
Houghton and Gabriel Richard will faceoff at 11 a.m. Friday Detroit Country Day and East Grand Rapids play at 1:30 p.m. The winners will face each other Saturday at 2:05 p.m. All games will be played at the USA Hockey Arena.