Gremlins ready to go: Long lay-off spurs Houghton past Kingsford

HOUGHTON – Presented with a long lay-off, some teams get rusty. Others get riled up. Houghton chose the latter option Thursday in a 6-2 Lake Superior Hockey Conference win over Kingsford.

Due to school cancellations and scheduled breaks, the Gremlins last played a week ago Monday in L’Anse. The 10 days between games might have been just the ticket for a Houghton team with several slow starts this season.

“The kids were excited to play and I thought that was our best first period of the year. I walked in after the period and told the team that was an excellent period, our puck movement was tremendous, a lot of tape-to-tape passes, real nice plays, effort was good,” Houghton coach Corey Markham said.

The Gremlins scored three times in the first period and outshot the Flivvers 15-5.

Spencer Donnelly, moved up to the second line for Thursday’s game, made the most of his promotion. Casey Markham collected a Flivver turnover and fed the sophomore, who sniped the top corner from the high slot for his third goal of the year just 2:49 in.

Despite several periods of sustained Houghton pressure, the score remained 1-0 for nearly 10 minutes until the Gremlins landed a pair of body blows, just 39 seconds apart.

Just seconds after Ted Pietila’s shot hit the outside of the post behind Houghton goalie Marcus Gloss, the Gremlins turned it around, with Casey Markham getting it up to speedster Ray Brice, who buried it for his 23rd goal in 16 games this year.

Houghton got its first line of Connor Hannon, Jed Kallio and Cale Markham on, and it would not be outdone, as Kallio banged in the last of multiple rebounds for a 3-0 lead with 3:59 left in the period. Hannon and Cale Markham drew the assists.

“We were just beating them to loose pucks. We were on our toes a little bit better than they were. If there was a free puck, we were getting to it. Once we got possession, we did a real good job of not just throwing the puck away,” coach Markham said.

Kingsford responded in the second, gaining a larger share of possession and pulling a goal back through Ted Pietila at 5:22.

“We knew they were a great team, we knew they were fast and no, we didn’t start out well,” Kingsford coach Jim Peterson said. “I’m not really unhappy. I wish it wouldn’t have been a 6-2 game, but we had some opportunities, I think at the end of that second, if the puck would’ve been in it would’ve changed it around.”

Houghton, chastened by memories of last year’s LSHC game at the Dee, in which a fast start devolved into a 4-3 overtime loss, turned up the wick in the third, getting goals from Hannon, Brice and Casey Markham to ensure its league record would remain unblemished.

“You can’t sit back against a team like that. Kingsford is a good team. They’re getting healthy, haven’t been healthy all year, a lot of big bodies, it’s a scary team. You can’t sit back and just go through the motions. Got to keep going hard and that part I was really happy with,” coach Markham said.

Pietila added a late power-play goal for Kingsford (5-7 overall, 2-3 LSHC). Wes Paupore stopped 32 shots.

Gloss made 16 saves for Houghton (13-3, 5-0 LSHC), which will dedicate its new Don Miller Memorial Locker Room before its next game, Tuesday vs. Calumet.

Kingsford has a day to prep for another trip to the Copper Country. The Flivvers visit Calumet in Great Lakes Hockey Conference play Saturday night.