Bulldogs blitz Flivvers early, hold on late for 6-3 win

HANCOCK – Hancock led Kingsford 4-0 and had an 11-2 shot advantage after the first period Saturday, but lack of discipline bit the Bulldogs late and a third-period Flivver surge prevented a blowout in both teams’ regular season finale.

The score was 5-0 Hancock after two periods, but Kingsford scored in the first 30 seconds of the third and added two more by the midway point of the final stanza. The Bulldogs, despite six third-period penalties, hung on, added an empty-netter and won 6-3 at Houghton County Arena.

“You want to win any game you play, but especially this time of year – even the games we lost we played well in, which is nice,” Hancock coach Dan Rouleau said. “But like I said (after a hard-fought 5-4 loss to Houghton last Thursday) moral victories are not as much fun as the real thing, so it was nice to get that today.

“Great start, second period was a pretty even period and we took all kinds of penalties in the third period that really disrupted our flow.”

The game was originally scheduled for last Tuesday but was rescheduled due to severe weather. Both teams’ conferences were already decided and both teams start regional play this week, rendering Saturday’s game meaningless in the bigger picture, aside from a momentum standpoint.

“People still want to come out and watch a good game, and that was hideous. That was terrible,” said Kingsford coach Jim Peterson of his team’s start. “We should have just stayed on the bus, I guess. They weren’t ready, you could tell. Hancock was ready, and they beat us in every area.

” I’m just glad we didn’t completely fall apart. That’s what I was worried about. We did make a little comeback, but it’s got to be earlier, much earlier.”

It certainly looked like it would be a Hancock blowout win in the early going, with the hosts dominating possession. It took 5 minutes, 47 seconds to finally break the deadlock, though, but once the Bulldogs did, the floodgates opened.

Wade Hanke opened the scoring with a shot from the slot, and less than two minutes later Hayden Heikkinen was the beneficiary of a fortuitous bounce off a defenseman’s skate from his left-point shot.

Only 41 seconds after that Alex Hill stole a puck in the neutral zone and scored a breakaway goal past Kingsford goaltender Conor Berndt. Finally, Zach Ahola scored the fourth goal of the period 2:18 before intermission.

The second period was much more even, with Kingsford holding a 9-6 shot advantage, but Hancock only padded its lead with a Kyle Hauswirth power play goal. He patiently waited to bury a puck that had bounced high in the air above the crease.

Momentum quickly shifted to Kingsford early in the third period, though, as Alex Wiitanen scored a rebound goal 27 seconds after intermission and Reid Pietila made it 5-2 only 2:53 into the third.

Nick Brule’s power play goal with 8:31 left in the game turned what was once a blowout into a nerve-wracking finish. Just 30 seconds later Hancock had a goal called back for a high stick and two more Bulldog penalties the rest of the way kept the game within reach.

Wade Hanke, who had started the scoring, finally put the clinching empty-net goal in with 1:43 remaining in his brother Dylan’s final varsity home game.

Dylan Hanke is the only senior on Hancock’s roster, and he has been the only hockey player in his class all through high school.

“In my 18 years here I’ve never seen that happen,” Rouleau said. “There’s a lot of potential players that could have been added to this team from his class, but nobody else played. It’s a credit to Dylan how well he’s progressed. He’s just gotten better and better every single year.”

While the prospects look good for Hancock next year, the Bulldogs (13-12) now focus all their attention on a Tuesday Division 3 Regional opening game against Jeffers at John MacInnes Student Ice Arena.