Alpena Downs TC Central to win Big North Conference Title
ALPENA, MI- They had already clinched a share of the Big North Conference title. However the Alpena Hockey team was in no rush to share it with anyone else. Traverse City Central came in with a chance to tie Alpena atop the BNC standings. In front of a standing room only crowd, the Wildcats capped off a perfect season in conference play as they defeated the Trojans 3-2.
The Wildcats struck first on a 5 on 3 late in the first. Cam Young missed what looked to be an open net, so open the goal horn went off. The Trojans seemed to freeze as Alpena kept playing, Reid Meinhardt would score off a pass from Anden Marceau with 0.1 second remaining in the period.
The Trojans would respond quickly in the second, after killing a Wildcat power play, Koen Burkholder navigated through a couple Wildcats before perfectly placing a shot. The Trojan goal was the first that Alpena has given up at home since December 16. The Wildcats would answer later in the period as Young would scoop up a loose puck and score on a breakaway. The Wildcats led it 2-1 after the second.
The third period would be defined in one word for Alpena, penalties. The Wildcats committed three penalties in about four minutes late in third. With seven minutes left on the first Trojan power play, Harrison Kaszubowski appeared to throw the knockout punch as he took a sloppy pass the other way and scored his 30th goal of the season on a break away to give Alpena a 3-1 lead. The Trojans would answer a minute later as Burkholder would score on the power play and it was 3-2 with six minutes left.
Alpena would have to kill off two more penalties and survive a six on five situation for the last two minutes. The Wildcats spent most of the last eight minutes of the contest down a man. Aidan Schultz was up to the task as he stopped a barrage of Trojan shots, including one in the final seconds as Alpena held on to win 3-2.
The win clinched the first 10-0 conference record in Alpena history. It was unbeaten conference season for Alpena since 2005. The Wildcats finish the season at 22-3 and will face the same Trojans in round one of the regional playoffs on February 25 at Northern Lights. Puck drop will be at 6:00 PM.
After the game a majority of the crowd stuck around as Alpena honored their 10 seniors. Aidan Schultz, Anden Marceau, Jaden Marchlewski, Jack Steinke, Trent Fraser, Brody Thompson, Ian Lightfoot, Cam Young, Easton Schultz and James Kuhl were all joined by their parents in what was an emotional moment on the ice. It was the first chance for this special group to really appreciate what they accomplished in the regular season.
Note: The main bleachers at Northern Lights were filled to capacity at 5:30. 30 minutes before the opening puck drop. Fans if you would like to have a seat for next weeks regional playoff game, I would recommend arriving 30-45 minutes before puck drop. Extra seats are expected to be made available behind the nets as the Arena prepares for the large crowds.