Gremlins get the breaks

HOUGHTON – What’s the going rate for a hat trick on home ice against a rival?

As of Friday, it appears to be about $150, but that was a fair price for Jed Kallio and his Houghton Gremlins Friday.

Kallio broke his stick scoring his hat trick goal, an empty-netter that sealed a 6-4 Great Lakes Hockey Conference victory.

“It was a huge goal to get the insurance on that For sure, they’re our rivals, and it’s always huge to play a good game and win in our own barn against them,” Kallio said.

Houghton had work to do against a Hancock squad that played dramatically better than it did 13 days previous in the MacInnes Holiday Classic championship (an 8-1 Gremlin win). It took a Connor Hannon goal midway through the third to break a 4-4 tie. Kallio had the primary assist on the game-winning goal, then finished it off in the empty net.

“We were fortunate to get a few goals late there. I thought that Hancock played extremely hard tonight. I thought they competed harder than we did for the majority of the night. They were hungry and we need to compete at a higher level consistently against Hancock. Tonight, I thought they outworked us,” Houghton coach Corey Markham said.

The Bulldogs scored their goals in two tightly-bunched pairs. The first came in the second period, as they took just 25 seconds to turn a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 lead.

Danny Hill poked in Zach Ahola’s pass from behind the goal line to tie it at 8:52, then Brett Lepisto triggered a mistake by deceiving Houghton goaltender Marcus Gloss into leaving the puck for him behind the net, where Lepisto hit Wade Hanke in front to fire into the gaping cage.

The Gremlins tied it late in the period when Tristan Foltz’s slap shot got through traffic with at least one deflection, then took the lead 5:30 into the second on Kallio’s first of the game, a hard wrister from the slot.

Kallio added a second early in the third on another laser.

“On both those goals, I was just trying to get the quick shot off, hit the net and they ended up going through,” he said.

The Gremlins took a penalty just seconds later, and the Bulldogs capitalized. Hanke buried a loose puck on the doorstep for the power-play goal, and just 19 seconds later, Hunter Kero’s shot from the left point trickled through, potentially with the help of a tip or screen, to make it an even game with 14:51 to play.

Hancock coach Dan Rouleau was pleased with the offense and his team’s effort in general.

“We were going to the net with our sticks down, we were looking for rebounds, we were fighting for the puck,” he said.

“We’ve had trouble putting two periods together against good teams and tonight we put three periods together. A bounce here, a bounce there and it could be a different hockey game.”

Unfortunately for Hancock, the game-deciding break went to the hosts.

In the midst of an ill-timed Bulldog line change, Kallio hit Hannon in stride. Hannon wired a puck top-shelf from the left circle to break the tie.

“I just got the puck in the neutral zone, saw it was offsides, so I brought it back in the zone to get more time and I saw they were changing, Connor was going long and I just gave it to him. Good shot by Connor,” Kallio said.

Hancock couldn’t find an equalizer and falls to 6-5-1 overall, 1-2-1 in league play.

“There’s too many guys on that team that you can’t let come down the wing like that and Hannon’s one of them,” Rouleau said.

“I think we had a pretty decent defensive game overall, but they’ve just got too many weapons. We can’t go into a Houghton game trying to shut down one or two guys because the other guys will hurt you.”

Friday was the beginning of five straight road games for the Bulldogs, who got 26 saves from Givens. Their next contest is Thursday in Negaunee.

Houghton, which got 31 saves from Gloss, goes to 13-1 (8-0 GLHC) and plays next weekend in the Soo Lions Showcase in Sault Ste. Marie. The Gremlins face Birmingham Brother Rice Friday night.

“I think we were just shooting pucks on net when we had a chance. I think that we weren’t moving our feet as well as we could, weren’t working as hard, but I think we got stuff done that we needed to get done,” Kallio said.