Playing to a draw

Wildcats rally to tie Sault Ste. Marie at home

News Photo by James Andersen Alpena’s Owen Limback, right, celebrates with teammate Mitch Agius after scoring his second goal during the second period of a hockey game on Tuesday at Northern Lights Arena.

Given a few more minutes, the Alpena High hockey team might have skated away from Tuesday’s game against Sault Ste. Marie with a victory.

Instead the Wildcats rallied and settled for a tie, playing to a 3-3 draw with the Blue Devils at Northern Lights Arena.

Lars MacArthur scored on a rebound with 9.3 seconds left, tying the game to help the Wildcats avoid a second straight one-goal loss.

At the end of regulation both teams skated to their benches, taking an apparent break before overtime. But both teams eventually met at center ice for post game handshakes, rather than playing the customary eight-minute overtime period, leading to some confusion among players and fans in attendance.

“We (myself and Sault coach John Ferroni) just didn’t discuss it beforehand, that was part of the reason we didn’t (play an overtime period),” Alpena coach Chris Limback said. “It’s one of those things you’ve got to determine and it’s a non-league game, so either way it’s a good tie.”

News Photo by James Andersen Alpena’s Colby Plowman, left, fights Sault Ste. Marie’s Alex Gordon for control of the puck during the first period.

Owen Limback scored twice for the Wildcats (1-1-1), who seemed no worse for the wear after playing their third game in five days.

Alpena outshot the Blue Devils 26-16 and threw everything it had at the Blue Devils in the last 17 minutes. The Wildcats outshot Sault 9-5 in the final frame, but the Blue Devils appeared to be headed for a win when Matthew Thurston scored just 1:13 into the third period, giving Sault a 3-2 lead.

Alpena had several near misses in the ensuing few minutes. With 12 minutes left, MacArthur came up just short on a give-and-go with Cody Sumerix. Not a minute later, Owen Limback passed across to a teammate near the crease and Alpena couldn’t connect.

One of the best chances came with 10 minutes left when Sumerix had a shot that appeared to get by Sault goaltender Jack Pattison, but somehow bounced out.

“You have to get chances and you have to keep saying, ‘They’re going to go in eventually,’ so get pucks to the net, get rebounds and things like that will happen,” Limback said. “I thought we did a good job getting pucks to the net.”

Alpena finally netted the equalizer when MacArthur tapped in a rebound on the power play with an assist from Limback in the closing seconds. In the final 11 minutes of regulation, Alpena had three power plays, including a brief 5-on-3 advantage. But the Wildcats weren’t able to connect until late when they had a 6-on-4 advantage with their goalie pulled for an extra attacker.

Cooper Black made 14 saves for Alpena.

Limback’s steady hand gave the Wildcats a brief lead in the second period after he scored two goals in 45 seconds. The first came with 14:49 left when he put in a shot off the post from just outside the right circle. The second one came moments later when he fired a shot past Pattison just inside the blue line.

Mitch Agius, Alex Cosbitt and MacArthur earned assists on Limback’s goals.

Alpena kept peppering Pattison in the middle frame, but Sault netted a second goal with 51 seconds left when Kaden Brown scored to make it 2-2.

Kevin Brown’s goal with 3:16 left in the first period put Sault ahead early although Alpena kept things close, firing seven shots on goal to Sault’s eight.

“I thought we were great tonight. I thought we played three really good periods. I was just really happy about everything we did,” Limback said. “(We had) a couple bad breakdowns that cost us where they scored, but overall I thought we were pretty good.”

Alpena will play its first road games of the season this weekend. Alpena plays at Cadillac on Friday and in Traverse City against the Traverse Bay Reps on Saturday.

James Andersen can be reached via email at sports@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5694. Follow James on Twitter @ja_alpenanews.