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Prep Hockey: Bulldogs top Northville, earn 3rd straight win

HANCOCK — If head coach Dan Rouleau had one message for his players through the first nine games of the season, it was that things will get better. The Hancock Bulldogs hockey team faced Top 5 talent in at least six of their first nine contests and had just one win for their efforts.

Saturday, with 2-1 win over the D1 No. 9 Northville Mustangs, the Bulldogs earned their third straight win and second of the weekend over a Top 10 team in any division.

“We finally got another victory in the holiday tournament in the second (game) against Jeffers,” said Rouleau. “it’s nice to get a win under our belt. We wanted to build off of that game going into the second half of the season and so far have. (We are) off to a good start. The boys played well all weekend, and it’s nice to see we’re back on track. Hopefully we can keep it there.”

The Mustangs came into Saturday’s contest having lost to D3 No. 1 Calumet 2-1 on Friday in a game where starting goaltender Joey Loebach made 54 saves. The Bulldogs came in having knocked off D2 No. 10 Novi, 4-3, on Friday.

The Bulldogs wanted to get off to a fast start, trying to capitalize on the Mustangs’ lack of legs. They struck very quickly, finding the back of the net just 26 seconds into the contest. Junior winger Austin Salani jumped on a clearing attempt by the Mustangs in the high right circle of the offensive zone. Turning and firing a shot quickly, Salani’s attempt flew up high and then dropped down, beyond Northville goaltender Dylan Eliason’s glove and in the net.

“We had a really good game with Calumet last night that took a lot of energy,” said Mustangs assistant coach Jon Gates. “(They are) a really skilled team. The puck was in our zone pretty much the whole game.”

Despite being shorthanded twice after the goal over the next eight minutes, the Bulldogs continued to find ways to challenge Eliason.

On the first Mustangs power play, Hancock co-captain Petr Anderson drove to the net with a Northville defender dragging him down. Anderson got a shot off, but the puck sailed over the net. On the ensuing faceoff, sophomore winger Todd Anderson got a shot on goal just after the draw, but Eliason made the stop.

The Bulldogs (4-8-0 overall) kept the pressure on and after a second penalty kill, Petr Anderson had multiple looks on back-to-back shifts. His first came at the end of a shift when he fired a wrist shot from the slot. The second and third came on his next shift as first he fired a wrister from the bottom of the right circle that beat Eliason but not the post. He tracked down the rebound, skated out to the faceoff dot of the left circle before firing another shot that Eliason stopped.

“That whole line, they’ve got a ton of opportunities,” said Rouleau. “They had loose pucks in front of the goalie. They shoot it over the net. They did everything but score. They played a really good game. They have a hard time burying right now, but hopefully they’ll come.”

A minute and a half later, freshman center Calvin Heinonen, who was playing on a line between the Anderson brothers, found himself with the puck in the right faceoff circle. He fired a wrist shot that Eliason stopped as well.

The Mustangs (3-10-1) put pressure on in the early stages of the second period as Liam Cooney stole a puck and fired a shot from the right circle that Pietila stopped just over three minutes in. About four minutes later, Jacob Maten skated down the left boards and fired a shot that Bulldogs goaltender Brandon Pietila fought off.

Just under a minute after Maten’s chance, Sotiris Tsilingras found himself alone in the right circle after a teammate knocked Bulldogs defenseman Chad Nordstrom down to separate him from the puck, but again, Pietila was there to make the stop.

The Bulldogs got their offense ratcheted back up when co-captain Colton Salani drove the puck down the left boards and fired a shot at Eliason. Junior Mason Mikesch poked at the rebound, freeing it up for Austin Salani to poke it through for a goal at 10:34.

Cooney answered back for the Mustangs 1:23 later when he took a pass from Chris Bogenhagen and skated the puck over to the middle of the blue line, firing a shot that got past Pietila.

The Bulldogs pushed hard in the third period, getting good scoring chances from Austin Salani and Petr Anderson, but Eliason stood his ground, stopping both initial chances and rebounds as they came about. The Mustangs could not get him pulled as the Bulldogs continued to keep the pressure on until Petr Anderson’s chance with 4.2 seconds left off a setup from Austin Salani in the neutral zone.

The Bulldogs are back in action Tuesday when they host Kingsford.

Northville 0 1 0 — 1

Hancock 1 1 0 — 2

First Period–1, HCH, A. Salani, 0:26.

Second Period–2, HCH, A. Salani, (Mikesch, C. Salani), 10:34. 3, NHS, Cooney (Bogenhagen, Sziraki), 11:57.

Saves–NHS, Eliason, 8-12-13–33. HCH, Pietila, 3-8-8–19

Power-play Opportunities–NHS 0 of 6. HCH 0 of 3.

Penalties-minutes–NHS 5-10; HCH 10-23

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