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Gremlins hockey stays perfect at 6-0

Houghton’s Jay Halonen prepares to shoot as Traverse City’s Blake Weaver skates in on him during a game Friday at Dee Stadium in Houghton. (Eddie O’Neill/Daily Mining Gazette)

HOUGHTON — The “hockey gods” did not send just one Trojan force from below the bridge this past weekend to take down the Gremlins, but rather two, and neither succeeded. On Friday, the Trojans of Traverse City Central made their way north to Dee Stadium only to be sent home with a 4-1 loss. On Saturday, the Trojans of Trenton gave it their best shot, but they too were sent back home with a 3-2 defeat.

“This was a good weekend,” said Gremlins coach Micah Stipech. “We were put to the test, and came out on top.”

Saturday’s game at the Dee was the tougher of the two. In fact, it was the first time the Gremlins had ever been behind on the scoreboard this season as Trenton led 2-1 after two periods of play.

“They (Trojans) are an excellent team,” stated Stipech. “They have won more than a dozen state championships (in Division 2), are well coached, and always favored to be in Plymouth by year’s end.”

As the third period got under way, the Gremlins made it interesting. They were keeping the puck in the offensive zone and keeping the Trenton’s netminder on his toes, but nothing was finding the back of the net. That was until the 12:11 mark. That was when the Gremlins’ Grant Schaible punched a loose one in for the 2-2 tie.

It looked like the game was headed into overtime, but the Gremlins took advantage of a power play as Trenton’s Boston Bennett was sent the box for a five-minute major for checking from behind

Less than a minute into the man advantage, Houghton’s Jace Deforge was in the right spot at the right time to push the puck in and regain a one-goal lead, 3-2, with 1:32 left in regulation.

While the Gremlins’ defense was crucial to wind down the clock with a lead and than less two minutes to go in game, Stipech credited his defense as playing strong all weekend.

“Connor Raffaelli, Noah Kreipke, and Wyatt Jenkins had strong games,” he said. “We are allowing less than 20 shots per game and that is a statement to our team defense.”

Stipech also credits his third line consisting of Teegan Tapani and Cooper Leonard as being a force to reckon with and not just a “third line.”

“I call them my ‘tank line,’ as they are two big boys who create havoc on the ice and are fun to watch,” he said. “Having that line and being able to put them out there against any one else in any situation has been a real blessing for us.”

Trenton’s coach Chad Clements gave praise to his team, and the Gremlins, for a well-fought battle on the ice.

“That is one of heck of a hockey team (Houghton),” he said. “They won the game, but I am equally proud of my guys and how they stuck with them for three periods.”

Friday night’s battle against Traverse City had a similar feel with the Gremlins winning 4-1.

They took a 1-0 lead with less than two minutes into the first as Tanner Flachs put one in with an assist by Kreipke. The Gremlins ended the period with a Michael Maillette goal with less than 10 seconds to go.

DeForge scored a breakaway goal in the second while the Gremlins had a man in the box to make it 3-0. He stole the puck at center ice, skated in, and put it through the goalie’s legs.

The Trojans did get a goal in the second off the stick of Collin Benedict and Maillette added an empty netter as the clock wound down in the third.

“Again, I thought we played really well,” said Stepich. “Puck possession was key in that game and we did a good job of keeping that in offensive zone.”

The Gremlins out shot Traverse City, 33-11.

“It was a game in which all of our guys got to compete and battle in,” added Stipech. “Everybody is playing, and that experience will be crucial as we head down the road.”

UP NEXT

The Gremlins will face off against the Hancock Bulldogs on Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Houghton County Arena in Hancock.

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