Gremlins have huge matchup this week
Editor’s note: I know it has been about a month or so since I last wrote a column, but I have been busy taking care of things on our end to give you the best coverage we can muster.
As the No. 13 Michigan Tech Huskies hockey team gets ready to face their rivals from down the road, the Northern Michigan Wildcats, the Houghton Gremlins, who are ranked No. 2 in Michigan according to mihshockeyhub.com, are preparing for a massive matchup of their own on Friday night at Dee Stadium.
Why is that, you ask? The Gremlins are preparing to host the No. 2 team in Wisconsin, the Bay Port Pirates. The Pirates are 16-3 on the season.
Two of the Pirates’ three losses have come to No. 1 Notre Dame Academy, by scores of 2-1 and 3-1. Their other loss came to Stevens Point. The Pirates responded to that loss with a 4-1 victory 21 days later.
Coach Mike Buchan’s Pirates score 6.1 goals per game. Couple that with the fact that they only give up 1.32 against, and you have an impressive pair of stats.
The Pirates are also clicking at 40% on the power play. Their penalty kill is also very strong at 90.3%.
They are led by senior forward Samuel Lyons who has 14 goals and 47 points in 19 games. Junior forward Nick Voss is also off to a great start with 22 goals and 47 points in 18 games.
Another Pirates forward to keep an eye on is Eliott Mikesch, the son of former Michigan Tech Huskies forward and Hall of Fame inductee Pat Mikesch. Eliott has 19 goals and 38 points in 19 games.
On the other side of the rink, the Gremlins come into Friday’s contest at 19-0 on the season. They are coming off another pair of wins over downstate opponents in Grandville, 8-2, on Friday and Salem, 9-4, on Saturday.
The Gremlins come into this weekend scoring 6.47 goals per game while only giving up 1.16 against. Their power play is very strong at 38.6% and they kill 83.8% of the penalties they take.
Senior Camden Markham leads the state with 67 points in 19 games on the strength of 31 goals, which ties him for second in the state with linemate Landon Stevens, who also has 31 goals and 56 points.
Houghton’s top line also includes Gaborik Carlson, who has 12 goals and 47 points. With Markham and Stevens, the trio of seniors has been extremely tough to keep contained by every opponent they have faced, except Brother Rice, who kept the three of them to just one goal on the night.
Of course, while the top line struggled against the Warriors, the Gremlins’ second line, which is strong enough to start for almost any other team in the state, contributed five goals against Brother Rice. That is because junior Mikey Maillette scored a hat trick and sophomore winger Jace DeForge added two of his own.
The Gremlins’ “Orange” line has been growing by leaps and bounds over the past few weeks, as Maillette is finding the net more consistently and DeForge is starting to heat up. The youngster has four of his six goals for the season in the last five games.
The duo are centered by Houghton’s fourth senior forward, Sully Rajala. The best two-way forward on the team, Rajala has 22 assists and 29 points himself.
While much can be said about the Gremlins’ top two lines, they are still struggling on the back end. The loss of junior defenseman Noah Kreipke has been felt throughout the lineup, as coach Corey Markham has had to spread his ice time through the rest of the group, which includes two freshmen in Gage Gullstrand and Jack Rudak. The young pair continue to get stronger with each game they play in, but they have had trouble at different points keeping up with the speed that opposing teams, especially downstate opponents, can bring.
Sophomore Hudson Markham, son of former Gremlins and Huskies forward Ryan Markham, has been working hard to help fill the gap left by Kreipke during his time with the varsity team. A natural forward, Hudson has been doing a commendable job of identifying his spots to play the puck, and he is building his confidence with each shift.
If you are looking for some hockey to watch this weekend, and are not planning on going to the Huskies/Wildcats game on Friday, I would highly recommend getting down to Dee Stadium. The Pirates, on paper, are the toughest opponents the Gremlins have faced, at least since they played Brighton or Hartland.