Taking penalties, especially bad ones, has been a hard thing for the Alpena hockey team to shake at times this season.
On Friday the Wildcats' inability to stay out of the penalty box allowed Petoskey to play the role of spoiler on Alpena's Senior Night.
Backed by three goals in the first period and six Wildcat penalties in the third period, the Northmen skated to a 5-3 victory over Alpena at Northern Lights Arena.
News Photo by James Andersen
Alpena’s Zach Nash (13) scores a goal in the first period against Petoskey goaltender Michael Whittaker during a hockey game at Northern Lights Arena on Friday.
"The best way to describe that would be just absolutely flat," Alpena coach Pete Doubek said. "I think we actually probably came out expecting to beat this team instead of actually working for the victory."
It was a markedly different result for the Wildcats (9-11-1), who dominated the Northmen in Petoskey with a 6-2 win early in the year. This time Alpena found itself hindered by eight penalties and a lack of offense in the third period. Petoskey outshot Alpena 16-5 in the final frame and didn't allow the Wildcats a shot on goal until the last five minutes of the period.
Petoskey needed just 23 seconds to score in the opening frame as Skye Pieffer found the back of the net with helpers going to Ben Schwartzfisher and Hunter Stinger.
The Northmen added a shorthanded goal about eight minutes later when Kyle Ruggles skated in alone and lit the lamp with an assist from Pieffer.
Zach Nash finally put Alpena on the board with 2:08 left in the frame. Starting from his own end, Nash skated into the Petoskey zone, split two defenders and put a shot past Petoskey goaltender Michael Whittaker on the glove side. Shane Dawson was credited with the helper.
Patrick Gitre added an unassisted goal for Petoskey shortly after Nash's goal to put Petoskey ahead 3-1 after one period.
Though Alpena spent a significant amount of time on the penalty kill, the Wildcats did get a few power-play chances and converted on one of them in the second period. With a 5-on-3 advantage, Sam Rumbles deflected a shot from Dawson to cut the Northmen lead to one a minute and a half into the second stanza. Dawson added an assist.
Petoskey regained a two-goal advantage a few minutes later when Ian Morrison tapped a rebound into a wide open net.
"We beat them pretty thoroughly the first time we played them in their barn," Doubek said. "They've improved significantly; we know that."
The Wildcats answered again late in the period when Jared Kwiatkowski fired a shot over Whittaker's glove to cut the score to 4-3 headed into the final frame.
It didn't take long for Alpena's third period chances to disappear. The Wildcats took two penalties in the first 1:12, giving Petoskey nearly a minute of 5-on-3 advantage.
Petoskey converted its chance with 15 seconds left in the second penalty, when Ruggles ripped a slapshot by Alpena goaltender Jesse Boilore.
The final frame didn't get any better for Alpena from there. After Dawson took a penalty midway through the frame, Rumbles took a slashing major penalty with 5:43 left, effectively putting the Wildcats on the penalty kill for the rest of the game. It also briefly gave the Northmen another 5-on-3 advantage.
Alpena took two more penalties after that, bringing them to eight for the game.
After collecting big wins over Traverse City West, Escanaba and Cheboygan in the past few weeks, Friday's loss might have left the Wildcats feeling a little humbled.
"It was disappointing. It's hard when you get down that much to regroup," Doubek said. "We're going to try to stay on the positive, learn from it and not take games for granted; that was our message to the kids tonight."
Alpena returns to the ice next Friday at Cadillac.