Finlandia men’s hockey drops close one to Marian

HANCOCK – The Finlandia men’s hockey team found itself in a 1-1 game going into the third period Friday night at Houghton County Arena against Marian, but the visiting Sabres scored two goals in the final 20 minutes to hand the Lions their 12th straight loss, 3-2, in Midwest Collegiate Hockey Association play.

Four of the last six FU (3-15-0, 3-10-0 MCHA) losses have been by one goal.

“I thought the effort was there, but again, a few things that we preach all week, in terms of turning pucks over in the wrong areas of the ice and managing the puck, and we continue to do that. When you do that against teams like this, they turn around and it bites you. That’s exactly what happened,” Finlandia coach John McCabe said. “We had a good overall team effort with a couple mistakes that you can’t make at this level.”

A sloppy Finlandia turnover at center ice led to Marian’s second goal at 8:29 of the third period, as Brendan Roberts stole the puck and fed it to Dakota Dubetz streaking up the middle of the ice. He beat Troy Chandler from in close.

Two minutes later it was Dubetz on the giving end of Marian’s final goal as he fed Brian Berger, who scored on a top shelf slapper from the lower right circle.

“I thought we built every period, got better in the second and took over momentum. It was a 1-1 game going into the third and I told the guys you have to go get this game,” said Marian first-year coach A.J. Aitken, who played his college hockey at Michigan Tech from 1997 to 2000, serving as captain his final two seasons.

Finlandia had a glorious chance to pull off the comeback after Marian took two late penalties just over a minute apart. With about 30 seconds left in the 5 on 3, the Lions cut the deficit to one with a Cody Essel goal from the top of the right circle with 3:11 left.

Finlandia continued to pressure Marian goaltender Josh Baker during the rest of the remaining power play, called a timeout with a minute left and pulled Chandler in the final 30 seconds, but the equalizer never came.

“We were fortunate to get that power play goal – that was a nice goal – and we had our chances again, but we just have to find a way to put those in,” McCabe said.

Both teams exchanged opportunities back and forth to start the game, with Marian’s two-man forecheck helping them sustain pressure in the Finlandia end, and the Lions getting their pressure by outrushing Marian’s backcheck.

It took more than 35 minutes to break the deadlock between two of the three lowest-scoring teams in the eight-team MCHA, but then the goals came in quick succession. Marian scored first – shorthanded – after Tyler Klein won a defensive zone faceoff and quickly flipped the puck up ice on the penalty kill. Berger blew past the Finlandia D, catching up with the puck at the right faceoff dot and lasering a shot past Chandler.

Shorthanded goals often quickly shift momentum, but Finlandia didn’t allow it to happen, effectively using the remainder of the power play to answer back with a Mike Montrose goal.

It’ll go down as an even-strength tally, but Marian was still practically shorthanded as Montrose fired an innocent looking slap shot from the blue line that snuck five hole past Baker one second after FU’s power play expired.

Shots were relatively close throughout in the tightly contested game, finishing 27-23 in favor of Marian (8-9-1, 7-6-0 MCHA), largely aided by a 14-7 second period shot advantage.

The teams do battle again today at 4 p.m. at Houghton County Arena.