For the first time in nearly three weeks, the Alpena hockey team finally had a reason to celebrate.
Reed Hamp scored twice and the Wildcats scored two shorthanded goals and a power-play goal while skating to a 6-2 win over Midland on Saturday at Northern Lights Arena.
The Wildcats (3-5-1) scored twice in the first period and then erupted for four goals in the third period to win their first game since the Huron Shores Tournament final in mid-November.
News Photo by James Andersen
Alpena’s Zack Kendziorski (4) tries to corral the puck to take a shot on Midland’s Colin Walters during the second period of a hockey game on Saturday at Northern Lights Arena.
"This was really big. We needed this win," Hamp said. "We've been on a grind of losing and we just came out pushing hard, scored a couple goals and felt great."
After surrendering a pair of power-play goals and a short-handed goal in a loss to Traverse City Central on Friday, the Wildcats came through on special teams this time around.
After Hamp's first goal with 7:17 left in the first period gave Alpena a 1-0 lead, Jared Plume picked up a loose puck in Alpena's defensive zone, skated in and fired a wrist shot past Midland goaltender Colin Walters for a short-handed score with 2:07 left in the frame.
The Chemics (0-3) cut Alpena's lead to one in the final minute of the first period when Anthony Moody scored on the power-play. Midland threw shot after shot at Alpena goaltender Jesse Boilore, but Boilore turned in another solid performance, finishing with 33 saves. Midland didn't score again until the final minute of the third period on a goal from Luke Trombley.
For Midland, the game's ending was eerily similar to a Thursday loss to Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett where the Knights scored four third-period goals in a 6-2 win.
The Wildcats did the same thing on Saturday after thwarting several scoring attempts from the Chemics in the second period. Alpena started the final frame on the penalty kill, but Zack Kendziorski scored Alpena's second shorthanded goal 21 seconds into the period after he picked off a pass and fired a shot past Walters that knocked his water bottle off the net.
Alpena's top line of Kendziorski, Hamp and Plume was in full force on Saturday, combining for eight points. Hamp, who lit the lamp for his first two goals of the season, was rewarded with a face full of body wash from his teammates after the game.
"We leaned on them quite a bit, but they have the chemistry right out of the gate and they kept building on it, especially when you get a couple quick goals, good things happen," Alpena coach Pete Doubek said.
Alpena got another break in the opening minute of the third period when it was awarded a penalty shot. Joey Bracken took it and missed high with his shot.
Hamp connected for the second time with 10:07 left, scoring on the power-play to give Alpena a 4-1 lead.
The scoring output was a welcome sign for the Wildcats who managed just four goals in their last three games.
"I feel a lot better tonight than I have for a while. The kids worked hard, they earned it," Doubek said. "Obviously you have to play as a team to win at this level, so it feels great."
Karsten Alexander gave Alpena a 5-1 lead with seven minutes left when he lifted a backhand up high past Walters.
Alpena ran into penalty trouble in the last several minutes of the game, taking three penalties that left the Wildcats on the penalty kill for more than four minutes and skating 5-on-3 for nearly two minutes. Boilore came up big for Alpena during this stretch, stopping seven shots.
Cole Cosbitt netted Alpena's final goal with 54 seconds left when he skated in with Alexander, took a pass from him and beat Walters up high to put Alpena ahead 6-1.
Alpena returns to the ice on Friday against Traverse City Central and Doubek hopes that Saturday's win is the kick start his team needs going forward.
"We hope that it is. The team really needed this and I think the two teams were fairly even so they worked hard and earned it. Now they have confidence they can score and they had fun doing it," Doubek said. "You just try to be resilient, that's all you can do and it comes down to character. We talk a lot about life skills (and how) no one is successful at everything all the time and it's how you react to it that's important."
James Andersen can be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at 358-5694. Follow James on Twitter @ja_alpenanews.