The Alpena hockey team hadn't played a game since the Dec. 29 Blue Line Tournament championship game, but it hardly looked rusty on Wednesday in a 3-0 shut out of the Traverse City Bay Reps.
Goalie Jesse Boilore stopped a all 24 shots he faced for the Wildcats.
"(Jesse's) been huge. I don't know how to express it in any other words. He's very focused and taking everything seriously this year and he's leading by example," Alpena coach Pete Doubek said.
News Photo by Eric Benac
Alpena’s Cole Cosbitt (16) scrambles for the puck against Dakota Derrer (2) of the Traverse City Bay Reps in a Wednesday night match at the Northern Lights Arena. Alpena won 3-0.
The key moment for the Wildcats (6-6-1) came just over four minutes into the second period when Nick Baranyai snagged a Tait Frogett pass and took a shot near the blue line. The shot slipped past Reps goalie Jay Jones to give Alpena a 1-0 lead. The crowd gasped as the puck hit the back of the net, but Baranyai wasn't surprised.
"I just put it on the net and there were lots of screens. It went through three people before it went in the net. But it was just a good overall team effort tonight," Baranyai said.
Baranyai then picked up an assist four minutes later after Joey Bracken grabbed a pass near the goal and tapped it past Jones to extend the Wildcats lead to 2-0 with eight minutes left in the second period.
This offensive burst carried over into the third period when Jared Plume slipped past the back line of Reps defenders and drove down the ice toward Jones for a short-handed goal 1:15 into the third period.
Jones had 21 saves for the Reps.
The Wildcats were plagued by penalties in the first period. They picked up 14 minutes of penalty time in the first period, including a 10 minute misconduct penalty. The Reps had only two minutes by comparison.
Traverse City held the puck in its half for most of the first while Alpena's first burst of offense came with two minutes left in the first in a flurry of shots Jones fended off.
"We created a lot of pressure and were a lot more offensively oriented," Dpubel saaid. "We seem to start out slow, but as soon as they get a taste for the other side of the ice they start to get more energy and try harder to maintain it. I think they're starting to understand now that they can do that."
The Wildcats defense was able to shut down the Reps offense in the second period, giving it very little chance to score.
The third period was fairly uneventful beyond Plume's goal. The Reps were stymied by the Alpena defensive press and by Boilore's stick and glove.
"The defensive end of the puck was stronger tonight. Nick Baranyai had a great game. I thought Jensen Saddler played one of his better games tonight and Cade (MacArthur) was solid. When you can trust the defense it creates more open ice and more break open opportunities," Doubek said.
Alpena plays Houghton on Saturday in the Sault Lions tournament.
Eric Benac can be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at 358-5690. Follow Eric on Twitter @EricBenac.