Gremlins roll to MacInnes crown

HOUGHTON – Something about John MacInnes Student Ice Arena makes the Houghton Gremlins want to score in bunches.

That pattern of explosiveness surfaced once again Saturday in the championship game of the MacInnes Holiday Classic, as the Gremlins scored five goals in a span of less than 11 minutes to turn a 1-0 first-period deficit into what became an 8-1 rout of rival Hancock.

Houghton scored seven goals in the first period of a regional tournament game against Calumet on this ice last February, in addition to the surprising 8-0 rout of Sault Ste. Marie on Friday night.

“I just feel like our team put it all together,” Gremlin forward Reid Pietila said.

Pietila scored twice, including the catalyzing and back-breaking goals in the second-period outburst.

The Bulldogs had the only goal of the first period when a blue line knuckleball from defenseman Kyle Hauswirth fluttered over the shoulder of Houghton goalie Marcus Gloss 11:27 into the game.

However, Houghton’s opening salvo came just 47 seconds into the next period.

A costly Hancock turnover put the puck onto Pietila’s stick, and he walked in alone for the equalizing goal.

Less than a minute later, Houghton took the lead. Ray Brice drove hard to the net and centered to Jonathan Bostwick, who scored at 1:29.

“We knew we were fine, we weren’t worried or panicked at all, we just kept on pushing and finally they were going in,” Brice said.

A similar play netted Houghton’s third goal, at 5:05: Brice drove to the net, drew defenders and let Bostwick clean it up, flipping a backhand that trickled past Hancock’s William Lucier and over the goal line.

It’s a play the Gremlins can use to great effect.

“Sticks are flying, it’s chaos after that. I like to create that chaos,” Brice said. “Then guys can get that loose puck and bury it home.”

Brice was named tournament MVP in media voting. He scored just one goal in the two games, the clincher in Friday’s win, but assisted on nine, including three in Saturday’s game. He has 34 points (16 goals, 18 assists) in just 12 games this year.

Riley McKay made it 4-1 when his slapper from the blue line got through at 8:26.

Pietila’s second goal all but put it away. Completing his service of a minor penalty, Connor Hannon hit him in stride coming out of the penalty box to trigger a solo breakaway and the 5-1 goal at 11:39.

Hancock coach Dan Rouleau pointed to the Pietila goals as two major turning points in the game but said if his team had finished better, maybe it could have stemmed the tide.

“If we bury some of the chances we had, the momentum maybe comes back our way a little bit,” he said.

At 38-28, the shot count was not grossly tilted in Houghton’s favor, but the Gremlins also got good nights from the defense and from Gloss in goal.

“Marcus was awesome this weekend. He keeps getting better and he’s playing with a lot of confidence right now,”Houghton coach Corey Markham said.

Gloss was one of five Gremlins named to the all-tournament team selected by the media, as was defenseman Tristan Foltz and forwards Hannon, Pietila and Jed Kallio.

Hancock was represented by defenseman Matt Sanregret.

Casey Markham, Foltz and Erich Walter added third-period goals for Houghton, now 10-1. The Gremlins return to play in a home game with Negaunee on Jan. 7.

Hancock (6-2-1) will host two-time defending Division 1 state champ Brighton Friday night at Houghton County Arena.

The teams will meet for the first time in Great Lakes Hockey Conference play Jan. 10 at Dee Stadium.

Houghton, which is now tied with Sault Ste. Marie for the most wins (10) in the 39-year history of the tournament, has its second title in three years in dominating fashion.

However it’s a trophy that will be given out on this rink in two months time in the Division 3 regionals that matters much more to all those involved.

“We haven’t accomplished anything yet, in all reality,” coach Markham said. “We want to be ready for the playoffs.”