Gremlins rue missed chances in OT defeat

HOUGHTON – Everything but the win.

That was the overriding feeling Houghton hockey coach Corey Markham had after Fond du Lac (Wis.) skated away with a 5-4 overtime victory Friday night at Dee Stadium. It was the second overtime loss in a week after Houghton fell in the extra period to Brighton last Friday.

“I was really proud of our effort, I thought we worked extremely hard,” Markham said. “We did a lot of good things. I’m really proud of getting down two goals in the third and fighting back. … that was a top team we played and we had many chances to win but just couldn’t get the big goal.

“Tremendous energy the whole game. The crowd was into it, both teams were playing well. One of the best high school games I have been a part of.”

Cardinals coach Ryan Sarazin, a Houghton alum, echoed Markham’s sentiments.

“That was an outstanding game,” Sarazin said. “Just one of those games where it was all left out there. It was definitely what we needed and I hope we helped Houghton as well.”

After a back-and-forth first two periods saw the scored tied at two apiece, Fond du Lac took a quick two-goal lead in the first seven minutes of third period when Cardinal forwards Ian Tess-Wanat and captain Michael Wilson capitalized on a pair of Gremlin turnovers.

No matter, where less experienced teams may have caved, Houghton pushed right back, with junior Connor Hannon taking advantage of a cross-checking penalty by netting a tough-angle one-timed power play goal with eight minutes to play.

Then, with less than a minute to go and the net empty, the Gremlins drew an interference penalty in front of Cardinals goalie Charlie Blagoue to give Houghton a two-man advantage with 28 seconds to play. Senior defenseman Hunter Rajala received the puck from Ray Brice off the face-off and walked in deep before slamming a slap shot five-hole to tie it at four apiece and send the game into overtime.

It was Houghton’s third power play goal of the evening.

“The power play was on tonight,” Markham said. “We made some big plays. In the third period, we felt very confident once we got the power play that we were going to do something with it. … Hunter has had some problems shooting high lately, but he was able to walk right down Broad Street, kept the puck down and got it in.”

The Gremlins surged from the first whistle in overtime, but Blagoue and some good stick work defensively kept the hosts at bay.

Finding their legs again, the Cardinals surged in front of Gremlins goalie Marcus Gloss and Tess-Wanat banged home the rebound from Jack Nejedlo’s shot to end the well-fought contest.

“We had two really important responses,” Sarazin said. “When they scored initially (in the second period) and we jumped right back and then a great job battling back in overtime.”

“Marcus made the initial save, but we couldn’t get a stick on it and clear it out,” Markham added. “We had too many like that tonight.”

Along with the four rebound goals allowed, Markham lamented the fact that his team wasn’t able to score more after peppering Blagoue with 37 shots, including several grade-A chances denied at the doorstep.

“When we had good opportunities we fumbled the puck a few times and just couldn’t get over the hump,” Markham said.

With Fond du Lac now 13-0 and ranked No. 2 overall in Wisconsin, Markham was grateful for the opportunity to test his team against top level competition in preparation for March.

“These will make your team so much better than when we play a young team and you mercy (rule) them. You learn nothing from those games,” Markham said. “These are character builders to get us ready for the playoffs.”

“It is awesome coming back,” Sarazin added. “Obviously growing up here I have a lot of respect for their hockey. It was just really neat playing here.”