Lions men snap losing streak

HANCOCK – Finlandia and Marian skated to their second 3-2 finish in as many days Saturday, but this time the Lions came out on top, snapping a 12-game losing streak in the process and polishing off a weekend and four-game season split against the Sabres.

“It’s huge. It’s a monkey off our back,” Finlandia coach John McCabe said. “It was an overall solid team effort. We got the victory and it was a long time coming, but hopefully we’re peaking at the right time.”

The Lions (4-15-0, 4-10-0 Midwest Collegiate Hockey Association) certainly peaked at the right time in Saturday’s afternoon contest at Houghton County Arena, breaking a 2-2 tie midway through the third period – the series was tied after the first and second periods both games – and surviving a late Marian (8-9-1, 7-7-0 MCHA) power play.

“We had our chances, but just ran out of time,” Marian coach and Michigan Tech alum A.J. Aitken said. “It’s very disappointing. They were a desperate group, they had lost how many in a row, and you can tell from the win they got a little monkey off their back. I was hoping it wasn’t going to be against us. I think we let this game slide.”

Marian didn’t get the finish or the start it wanted.

Finlandia’s Cody Essel quickly gave the hosts a 1-0 lead 2:27 into the game, firing a one-timer from the slot past Marian goaltender Josh Baker. Andrew Huckleby and Collin Saint-Onge assisted on the play.

Sabre forward Tyler Klein made sure the lead wouldn’t last long, though, after teammate Brian Berger capitalized on a bad bounce during a Lion power play and fed Klein for a slot one-time goal of his own past Troy Chandler.

It was the second straight day Finlandia surrendered a shorthanded goal, and Marian now has four shorthanded goals this year in MCHA play compared to just three power play goals in 66 attempts (4.5 percent).

The Sabres were 0 for 7 on the power play over the weekend.

“We went out there and got a shorthanded goal, which was nice, but we’re just having issues on our power play. We’re below 5 percent right now and we’re just looking for guys to step up and take some responsibility,” Aitken said.

For a while, though, it didn’t look like Marian would need to score on its power play as they took a 2-1 lead at even strength eight minutes into the second period with a goal by Kyle L’Arrivee.

The Lions had several grade-A chances to deadlock the game, but missed the net during a two on one and hit the inside of the left post on another chance. Just when luck looked completely against Finlandia, Shigenobo “Shiggy” Kakudate scored on a fluky bank shot goal from behind the goal line two minutes before second intermission.

“We were just getting pucks in deep and establishing the forecheck and putting pucks on net,” McCabe said. “Guys were going to the net and getting rewarded.”

The game got chippy after the goal with three unsportsmanlike conduct penalties before intermission, and the physical play carried over into the third period, led primarily by Finlandia winning a majority of physical battles and following its shots.

Finally the effort paid off with a go-ahead goal by Ryan Daavettila, who cleaned up a Cam Goude rebound 7:53 into the final period.

“We played with more determination and urgency (Friday) night,” Aitken said. “Tonight we were just waiting for something to happen instead of going to get it. I thought Finlandia went after it and outworked us in the third period.”

Goude took the physical play a bit too far with 1:40 left in the game, though, boarding a Sabre player and giving Marian late life. Baker was pulled with 1:05 left, Aitken called a timeout with 54.4 seconds left after Saint-Onge nearly put the game away with an empty netter and Finlandia survived a late 6-on-4 barrage.

“Our guys have been hungry the whole second half. It hasn’t been for lack of effort,” McCabe said. “We’ve had great leadership from our captains and that was a good hockey game played by us.

“We have a good team and we can play with anybody in the league,” he added. “Hopefully this will take the monkey off our back and we can move forward and start relaxing and playing Lion hockey.”