A big improvement

Wildcats show better effort in win over Dakota

News Photo by James Andersen Alpena players Cody Sumerix, left, Evan Kraenzlein, center and Nate Cosbitt celebrate after Sumerix scored a goal in the first period of a hockey game on Saturday against Macomb Dakota at Northern Lights Arena.

A good effort earned the Alpena High hockey team a solid win on Friday.

A better effort Saturday earned the Wildcats an even more impressive one.

Kyle Van Dusen scored twice and Lars MacArthur and Cody Sumerix added single tallies as the Wildcats defeated Macomb Dakota 4-1 on the final day of the Blue Line Tournament at Northern Lights Arena.

The victory gave the Wildcats (4-3-2) a win over the Cougars, who were a game from reaching the semifinals last season. But perhaps more importantly, the win cemented a turnaround for the Wildcats after they went 0-1-1 in a showcase the previous weekend.

Alpena defeated East Kentwood 3-2 on Friday.

“Last weekend was a little frustrating. A loss and a tie is never fun, but I though we hung in with those guys and I think it showed our team that we can play with anybody,” Alpena assistant coach Cam Givens said. “Two quality teams (this weekend). We knew what we were getting into this weekend and they gave us two great games.”

Alpena led 2-1 after one period and added to its lead with two second period goals which came just 17 seconds apart.

With 4:24 left in the middle frame, MacArthur dug the puck out from behind the net and beat Dakota goalie Michael Kwapis on a backhand. Just 17 seconds later, VanDusen came flying down the right side of the ice and blasted a shot past Kwapis from the right circle.

The two goals gave VanDusen 12 for the year and he was named Alpena’s MVP of the game.

“The kid’s really good. I mean he does stuff in practice sometimes that leaves you scratching your head,” Givens said of VanDusen. “He’s a great team guy and he’s only a junior which is really hard to believe.”

Dakota scored the game’s first goal with 13:38 left in the first period, but Cooper Black denied the Cougars the rest of the way. Black earned the win over Alpena after making 18 saves.

Much like they did Friday, the Wildcats came out firing on offense and Sumerix finally found the back of the net with 7:22 left in the opening frame. Sumerix took an outlet pass from Nate Cosbitt, skated in on Kwapis and scored for his first goal of the year.

Alpena outshot Dakota 31-19 and Givens was pleased to see a better effort from the Wildcats on Saturday.

“I think everything from the game prep to guys just getting their minds right and knowing something had to change,” Givens said. “We kind of left it up to them to figure out what that was going to be.”

VanDusen scored his first goal of the game with 1:22 left in the first period, taking a pass across the slot from Colby Plowman to fire into a wide open net. VanDusen’s tally came while Alpena was shorthanded, giving the Wildcats their second shorthanded goal in as many days.

“Those are really tough to come by. Any time you can get a shorty is big and the fact that we’ve actually had a handful already in nine games is pretty remarkable,” Givens said.

Alpena outshot Dakota 8-4 in the first period and kept up the pace early in the second period. Early in the frame, Owen Limback walked in all alone on Kwapis, but was stopped. Midway through the period, MacArthur had a clear shot after a failed clearing attempt and missed. MacArthur eventually lit the lamp at 4:24 with an assist from Sumerix.

Both teams got multiple power-play chances in the third period including a 5-on-3 advantage, but neither team could connect.

Alpena hosts Petoskey on Wednesday. Puck drop is scheduled for 7 p.m.

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