Prep Hockey: Detroit Jesuit blanks Gremlins

HOUGHTON — There is an old hockey adage coined by Wayne Gretzky years ago that 100 percent of the shots you do not take will not go in.

The Division 3 No. 3 Houghton Gremlins had a moment that lived up to that statement in the third period of a 3-0 loss to the D3 No. 4 University of Detroit Jesuit Cubs on Saturday afternoon at Dee Stadium.

Trailing by two three minutes into the third period, the Gremlins had two senior forwards in Carson Stevens and Niko Rajala skate in on a 2-on-0. Stevens moved the puck over to Rajala, who never looked up, but instead tried to feed it back to Stevens, who was not looking for a return pass. The puck skittered into the corner and out of harm’s way.

The play was a microcosm of the larger game for Houghton, highlighting the issues the Gremlins are having scoring goals.

“That’s our biggest issue right now,” said Gremlins coach Corey Markham. “(It’s) not lack of effort. We had a lot of really good spurts in this game. We just cannot score right now.”

The Gremlins (8-5-1 overall) did put 28 shots on Cubs backup netminder Blake Nowak in the contest, but too few of those chances were second or third opportunities for Markham’s liking.

“They packed in pretty good once we got the puck low or behind the net,” he said. “Their wingers did a good job in the slot area. We had enough quality locks to score some goals and we’re just gripping the stick way too tight right now.

“We’ve got to find a way to get over this hump.”

Nowak made a number of quality saves throughout the afternoon, perhaps none bigger than a pair of chances for the Gremlins on the power play in the second. Stevens took a pass at the left point from co-captain Ty Halonen and wired a shot that Nowak kicked away. Then, 30 seconds later, Stevens fired another long shot that senior forward Tucker Tapani tipped, but again Nowak was there to make the save.

Bennetts and his staff had been waiting to see an effort like this from their goaltender, who had struggled at times early in the season.

“I think this is a real big game for Blake to build his confidence,” he said.

The Cubs (7-6-0 overall) struck just 3:53 into the contest when they took advantage off an odd-man rush. Alex Chapie drove into the offensive zone and down the right side of the slot before moving the puck over to Jake Gumbel, who crashed the net from the left side. Gumbel wasted little time burying a wrist shot for what would stand as the game-winning tally when all was said and done.

The Gremlins put pressure on Nowak after the goal, and freshman forward Camden Markham took a feed in the slot from senior center Brandon Trudeau, but his wrist shot was fought off. A minute after the Markham chance, Tapani and co-captain Jiseung Choi both had good looks from the slot after the Cubs failed to clear the puck, but again were held off the scoresheet.

Houghton took a penalty with seven minutes left in the first, and that decision proved costly. Chapie found some space in the slot and made himself available for a pass from Gumbel. Once he got it, Chapie’s shot was redirected past Pietila by Jack Miller at 10:29.

Given that the Cubs play on an Olympic ice sheet in metro Detroit, they are not able to use the type of forecheck they used to, a 2-3. In Dee Stadium, a much smaller ice surface, they could, and Bennetts said it helped.

“It’s really hard to cover Olympic ice for the pinch, so we have been a little nervous about trying to do that,” he said. “I knew that this rank was a little narrower, a little shorter, so we thought this would be a good one to try to implement that 2-3 that we used to love so much for the last 10 or 15 years.”

The game remained 2-0 until late in the third period. With Jimmy Pietila, who made 26 saves in the loss, off for the extra attacker, Houghton attempted to keep the puck in the zone along the left boards. The Cubs’ Jimmy Gormley, in clearing it out of the zone, threw the puck up high. With a bounce once it hit the ice, the puck found its way to the empty net, sealing the win with 47 seconds left in the game.

Detroit Jesuit 2 0 1 — 3

Houghton 0 0 0 — 0

First Period–1, UDJ, Gumbel (Chapie), 3:53. 2, UDJ, Miller (Chapie, Gumbel), PP, 10:29.

Third Period–3, UDJ, Gormley, EN, 16:13.

Saves–UDJ, Nowak 13-9-6–28. HHS, Pietila 5-9-12–26

Power-play Opportunities–UDJ 1 of 2. HHS 0 of 2

Penalties-minutes–UDJ 2-4; HHS: 2-4