Two early goals and a solid defensive effort powered the Alpena Street Cats to victory on Friday night.
Vladislav Khasanov and Pavel Bocharov scored for Alpena in the first nine minutes of the first period and Vlad Graevski made 40 saves as the Street Cats beat the Traverse City Hounds 2-1 at Northern Lights Arena.
Despite taking 35 minutes in penalties, the Hounds made things interesting in the final minutes after Patrick Rogowski scored with 1:44 remaining. Alpena (9-4) held on however and gained two points, while shrinking Traverse City's hold on first place to six points.
News Photo by James Andersen
Alpena’s Konstantin Khramov, left, attempts to fire a shot past Traverse City’s Kenneth Simmons Jr., during the first period of a junior hockey game on Friday at Northern Lights Arena.
"It was an awesome game and it was so hard for us, but we have good players, a good coach and a good team," Graevski said.
Khasanov, who entered Friday's contest as the second-leading scorer in the Midwest Junior Hockey League with 28 points, scored just 1:45 into the game when he picked up a loose puck and fired a wrist shot past Hounds' goalie David Krejcik.
After Cam Fisher took an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty a few minutes later, Andrei Yanovich fired a one-timer from the right circle to Bocharov who fired a shot high past Krejcik for a 2-0 Alpena lead.
"It was our goal to start the first 10 minutes of the game very physical with good, clean body checks. I know it was a very important 10 minutes and they weren't ready for it," Alpena coach Igor Myaskovskiy said.
Graevski made several solid stops throughout the game and stopped a few early shots from the Hounds in each of the last two periods.
After the Hounds (11-2-0-2) took two penalties in first ten minutes-both of which were killed-play got a little more heated. Alpena defenseman Savelii Skurikhin put a clean hit on Traverse City's Scott Luca. Luca took exception and as Skurikhin skated away, Luca slashed him in the lower leg and drove him to the ice before Skurikhin skated away. Luca was given a five-minute major penalty for intent to injure as well as a game misconduct.
The penalty gave the Street Cats a 5-on-3 advantage for 1:36, but they were unable to convert. Alpena was 1-for-8 with the man advantage while the Hounds were 0-for-5.
With so many penalties handed out in the second frame, neither team had many scoring chances, though Graevski did stop Kevin Hansen on a backhand attempt with a few seconds left.
The Hounds outshot the Street Cats 41-27 for the game and Krejcik had 25 saves.
Traverse City started the final frame on the power-play, but was unable to convert. After the Hounds killed a late slashing call, Rogowski finally put the Hounds on the board with a goal.
The Hounds pulled Krejcik for an extra attacker for the last 90 seconds, but couldn't come up with the equalizer and were dealt just their second regulation loss of the season.
Alpena continues to play with a short bench, but Myaskovskiy has been impressed with his team's ability to play well, especially in front of the hometown crowd.
"I'm proud because we like to bring a good mood to our fans. They were waiting for it and hoping for it," Myaskovskiy said. "Before the third period I gathered them around me and told them, 'Guys, I know we have a short bench, we're tired, exhausted, but take a look at the stands and how many people there are.'"
Alpena plays Traverse City at 7 p.m. tonight at NLA.
James Andersen can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5694. Follow James on Twitter @ja_alpenanews.