Saturday was an exciting day for Alpena High School's Ugis Skuja. Not only did the Latvian exchange student get to hear his national anthem sang before the game for a second time, but he was also able to score his first goal of the season in a 5-5 tie with Hudsonville in the Booster Tournament's Consolation game.
Skuja experienced all of this on his 18th birthday.
"It is probably the greatest birthday of my life and I'm only 18," he said.
News Photo by Eric Benac
Alpena’s Emily Duncan (12) tries to take control of the puck from Hudsonville’s Austin Forest (16) while Karsten Alexander (14) takes on Chad Wilson in the second game of the Boosters Tournament on Saturday.
The first period saw Alpena come out strong with a solid shot 30 seconds into the period. Hudsonville wasn't going down without a fight and kept up a strong offensive and defensive pressure throughout the period.
Hudsonville scored the first goal of the night at just under four minutes into the game off a Ryker Barber shot. He was assisted by Kevin Carlson.
Alpena then had back to back penalties at six minutes into the game which kept them under-manned for two and a half minutes. They successfully killed the penalty and scored less than 20 seconds later with 8:11 left in the period.
Zach Nash scored Alpena's first goal with an assist by Jared Plume and Skuja. It was to be his first goal of the night.
The fans went crazy as the game started back up but Hudsonville scored in just under 10 seconds off a Carlson assisted Kollen Bayko goal.
The second period saw Alpena assert dominance over Hudsonville. The defense kicked up a lot of solid pressure that brought the puck back into Alpena territory time and time again.
This paid off with their second goal of the night at just eight minutes into the period. Plume scored his first and only goal of the night off an assist by the defensively strong Sam Rumbles.
The second period went off without a hitch for the Wildcats until the last minute. Fans were shocked when Hudsonville's Hunter Ellens scored a Adam Jorgensen assisted goal with 38.5 seconds to go in the period.
They were even more shocked when Nick Scott scored off a pass by Austin Forest 14 seconds later to take Hudsonville to a demanding 4-2 lead.
Fans may have felt deflated by such a quick turn-around but the Wildcats charged hard against Hudsonville in the third and the pressure paid off with two goals in under two minutes.
The first goal of the period was Skuja's at just over five minutes into the period. Fans broke into a chant of "happy birthday" as the sirens roared. He was assisted by Kam Russell.
The second one came just under two minutes later off the stick of Rumbles who garnered an assist from Plume and Nash.
Alpena was back in the game. They stayed very disciplined and penalty free against an aggressive and defensively strong Hudsonville team.
Hudsonville showed off their offensive aggressiveness with their fifth and last goal of the night off a Bayko scored goal that came from with an assist from both Jorgensen and Scott.
The Wildcats pulled the goalie with just a minute left to go. They kept the puck close to the net and out of their territory.
Nash began skating towards the goal with just under 30 seconds left in the game. Suddenly he found himself airborne.
"I noticed nobody was in front of me or behind me so I went for the goal. Somebody tripped me and I was flying through the air. I decided to take the shot anyways," he said.
Somehow Nash was able to connect with the puck strong enough to send it past Hudsonville's goalie. The stadium erupted in cheers at Alpena earned a tie at the last minute.
A tie may not have been exactly what Alpena wanted but it still felt good to head coach Pete Doubek.
Nash was rewarded for his efforts by earning the third place "star" for the game. Barber of Hudsonville got the second star while Bayko got first.
Anchor Bay won the Boosters championship game between C.A.A.S. 4-2