Three-goal third period lifts Gremlins hockey to Wing Ding win

HOUGHTON — Before a packed Dee Stadium Friday night of Wing Ding week, the Houghton Gremlins hockey team found its footing, scoring a goal in each of the first two periods before racking up three more in the third to top the Hancock Bulldogs, 5-0.

Just the atmosphere alone made the game memorable.

“The biggest crowd that I’ve seen in the Dee Stadium for a high school game,” said Gremlins coach Micah Stipech. “It was almost completely packed, and loud, so loud. It was really cool.”

The Gremlins came out of the gate playing a very physical style, and they maintained their physicality throughout the game. Hancock did a good job breaking plays up early however, and competition was mostly even for the majority of the first period. Senior goaltender Dan Wroblewski made some keys saves to keep things scoreless.

The Bulldogs stood to-to-toe for long stretches with Houghton. But, in the latter stages of each of the first two periods, the Gremlins asserted themselves in the offensive zone and were rewarded.

For Houghton, who was stung twice in their loss to Detroit Catholic Central by late-period markers, scoring at the end of the first period and more than midway through the middle frame was something they were focusing on.

“We’ve been struggling to score lately against the three big opponents that we’ve had, really in our last five games, four of them, we had only scored one goal,” said Stipech. “So, we really wanted to have some desperation to capitalize on our chances. We know what it’s like to be scored on late in a period after playing CC. It’s such a momentum boost, especially because we really had a bunch of opportunities in the first period, and to get one late was a big momentum swing.”

Senior defenseman Connor Raffaelli got Houghton on the board when he took advantage of an extended shift in the Hancock zone. The Bulldogs got caught chasing the puck a bit, resulting in his wrister, which was a hard, high shot from between the circles that beat Wroblewski blocker side into the upper corner of the net at 14:43. Sophomore winger Noah Maillette and sophomore center Jack Sayen both assisted on the goal.

Raffaelli added a second goal 15:50 into the third period during a 5-on-3 power play.

Having the veteran defenseman chip in offensively in such a big way was a key for the Gremlins.

“He played with so much poise, two huge goals from him,” Stipech said. “He leads on and off the ice in so many ways, and just the big smile he had on his face after the game, it said it all.”

Gremlins senior goaltender Bryant Lee kept the Bulldogs off the board in the first.

The second period was back and forth, similar to the first frame, with neither team dominating. Both squads were able to generate some chances that were handled by the experienced netminders. Houghton was able to go up 2-0 just past the halfway point of the game, when a shot from Sayen along the ice from the left side just missed Wroblewski’s pad and caught the inside of the far post at 9:19. Noah Maillette picked up his second assist of the night on the goal.

Hancock was able to make the fans of the Orange and Black sweat at times with some good looks at Lee, but just could not capitalize to find that first goal and cut into Houghton’s lead. In particular, just after Houghton had killed the first penalty of the game, Hancock was able to cycle the puck around Lee’s net to the right slot. But, the rebound of freshman center Tevin Stukel’s shot was pushed just wide to the opposite corner to keep the Bulldogs scoreless.

Houghton again forced the play late in the second leading to a lopsided amount of possession over the last three minutes of the period. Hancock withstood that onslaught and went into the second intermission down just two and still very much in contention.

However, a penalty in the first minute of the third led to a 3-0 Gremlins lead when senior center Michael Maillette scored right off the first faceoff of the power play at 1:41. That drop was to Wroblewski’s right, and the Gremlins won the draw, junior winger Jace DeForge centered the puck smartly, and Maillette buried his chance into the net only two seconds into the penalty.

Hancock again had a chance to get back into the game when Houghton was called for simultaneous penalties, giving the Bulldogs two full minutes of a 5-on-3 advantage, but Houghton was able to consistently clear their zone during that time, and even generated a shorthanded breakaway, stopped by Wroblewski.

Sophomore defenseman Jack Rudak scored Houghton’s final tally on the same power play where Raffaelli scored his second goal. While Raffaelli’s came on a two-man advantage, Rudak’s which crossed the line at 16:09, was on a one-man advantage.

Lee finished his night having stopped all 16 shots the Bulldogs threw his way. After giving up four goals in a loss to Notre Dame in the second game of the MIHL Showcase, getting the shutout Friday was heartening for his coach.

“He carries the whole weight of the team on his shoulders, and it was such a relief for him,” Stipech said. “I could tell after the game, it means so much to him. Everybody plays so hard for him.

“A three-goal lead for us feels like a really big lead, because of Bryant. For us to play a complete game, and for him to get another shutout, I’m just so happy for him.”

Wroblewski finished with 27 saves in the loss.


Houghton is back on the ice at Dee Stadium Tuesday when they host Calumet at 7 p.m. Hancock will also be on the ice Tuesday, as they host Marquette at 6:30 p.m. at the Houghton County Arena.


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