Gremlins persevere past Jets

HOUGHTON – Fueled by the power of perseverance, Houghton took care of business Thursday night at Dee Stadium, defeating Jeffers 5-3 in Lake Superior Hockey Conference play.

Despite adversity on and off the ice, the Gremlins scored three times in the second period for the separation they needed to run their record to 16-4 and 8-0 in league play.

The first of the second-period goals was a rebound buried by Cale Markham, who celebrated by pointing to the sky in memory of his grandfather, Jim Markham, who passed away earlier in the week. Another grandson, Casey Markham, notched a first-period assist.

“It was very emotional. I didn’t know if they’d be able to go back on the ice after that goal, actually. It was very emotional on the bench. You’ve got to hand it to those two kids, in a difficult situation, they played their heart out,” Houghton assistant coach Micah Stipech said. Head coach Corey Markham, Jim’s son and Cale and Casey’s uncle, was not on the bench.

All the Gremlins wore stickers on their helmets in support.

“I was nervous not because of a different role on the bench but because we wanted to do this for our coach, our leader, our friend. You always feel in tough situations you wish you could do something. Tonight, we could give him one less thing to worry about,” Stipech said.

Jeffers (13-9, 4-4 LSHC) didn’t make the win easy for Houghton, taking the lead 2:18 in on a point shot from Ross Michaels that went in off the crossbar.

About eight minutes later, defenseman Hunter Rajala passed down to the doorstep from the right point, and Connor Hannon tipped it in to tie the game.

Celebrations were short-lived, as Houghton took back-to-back penalties on the next two shifts. After the draw in the Houghton end, Hannon pressed the defense, setting up Ray Brice to take the puck off a Jeffers player in retreat, go in and score a rare 3-on-5 goal at 11:41.

However, Matt Mantta reminded the Gremlins of the state of affairs 20 seconds later when he fired the puck in from the left circle for a power-play equalizer.

“We’ve been slow starting the last two games, it’s been a little bit concerning. We’ve waited until the third to play. We knew we couldn’t do that against Houghton. I did think the boys came out and responded. We’re playing a top team in the state, we’d better come out responding,” Jeffers coach David Bekkala said.

The game remained tied until deep in the second, when a series of mistakes cost the Jets.

Brice drove to the net for a scoring chance, and though goaltender Dax Durocher cut it off, no one accounted for Cale Markham on the follow for the goal at 11:21.

After the Jets took a penalty two minutes later, Brice was allowed too much room to work in front of goal, waited out a poke-check from Durocher, then stuffed it behind him at 14:06. Just 46 seconds later, Jon Bostwick converted another loose rebound for the 5-2 goal.

“It was pure effort. Our compete level we addressed in the first period. We wanted to play in their end with pressure on their defense,” Stipech said.

Jeffers got a late consolation tally from Brady Guilbault, but that was the extent of the visitors’ comeback.

Bekkala said he was very happy with the effort level but that his team made a few too many mistakes.

“It burnt us, but we tied the first, we lost the second and we won the third. There’s some positives to take out of here. I don’t think our boys ever quit and I think they kept coming,” Bekkala said.

The Jets, for whom Durocher made 32 saves, host Kingsford in LSHC play a week from tonight.

Marcus Gloss stopped 24 shots for Houghton, which will turn around for a special Wing Ding game against Hancock at MacInnes Student Ice Arena Saturday at noon.