Coming through late

Strong third period lifts Wildcats past Petoskey

News Photos by James Andersen Alpena forward Colby Plowman (3) skates toward the net while being defended by Petoskey’s Trevor Reece during a hockey game on Wednesday at Northern Lights Arena. Plowman had a goal and an assist in Alpena’s 3-0 victory.

The third period seems to be when the Alpena High hockey team is at its best.

That rang true again on Wednesday as the Wildcats scored twice in the third period on the way to a 3-0 win over Petoskey in a Big North Conference contest.

Kyle VanDusen and Alex Cosbitt lit the lamp in the final period for the Wildcats (5-2-3, 2-0-1 Big North), who won their third straight game and improved to 4-1-1 at home this season.

“We’re a fast team and we’re not so much a physical team, so speed comes through especially when you don’t hit speed,” Alpena assistant coach Ian Stevens said. “They weren’t overly physical, so I think our speed started to show, that gave way to some breaks and we capitalized on our opportunities.”

Colby Plowman added a goal and Jimmy Bolanowski made 19 saves as Alpena gained a crucial conference win. The Wildcats can take over first place in the Big North with a win over Traverse City Central on Friday.

Alpena led 1-0 after two periods and overcame a slow start to overwhelm the Northmen in the final two frames.

VanDusen gave Alpena a two-goal cushion just 18 seconds into the third period. Skating into the slot, VanDusen passed the puck across to Plowman who immediately sent it back to VanDusen, who found an open net to deposit his 13th goal of the season.

With 14:42 left, Cosbitt beat Petoskey goaltender Taylor Troxel with a shot and VanDusen and Cody Sumerix earned assists.

Alpena outshot Petoskey 32-19 for the game and outshot the Northmen 24-11 in the final two frames. It made up for a slow start where Petoskey took the fight to the Wildcats and had several good chances.

“It was a slow start in the first period,” Stevens said. “Petoskey’s a gritty team and we knew they were going to be gritty coming into the game, so we had to skate with them and hit them.”

Petoskey nearly scored with 11 minutes left in the opening frame after Kyle Hebner bounced a shot off the post. Alpena scored first however when Plowman took an outlet pass from VanDusen and outraced a defender to put a shot past Troxel with 1:13 left in the period.

Alpena came out more aggressive to start the second period and outshot the Northmen 8-1 in the first six minutes. Even so, the Northmen had several good chances, but Bolanowski denied them. Ethan Decker had a chance in close with 5:30 left and in the closing seconds Derek Hebner ran out of time on a breakaway chance.

It was another strong showing in net for the Wildcats. In the past three games, Bolanowski and Cooper Black have combined to allow just three goals.

“Their heads are in good places and they’re both making the saves we need them to make. The whole team’s helping them out and it’s a team effort,” Stevens said. “In the offensive and defensive zones, neither side would be productive without the help of the other. They’re the backbone of this team.”

The Wildcats backed up their netminder’s effort with an increased offensive push in the final two periods. In the second period, Cosbitt nearly poked a puck in after a blast from the point by Owen Limback. Later in the period, Noah VanDusen split a pair of defenders for a chance and was denied and Sumerix couldn’t bury the rebound.

In the third period, Noah VanDusen had a chance on the doorstep right after Kyle VanDusen’s goal and late in the frame, Plowman came up short on another breakaway chance.

Alpena will host Traverse City Central at 7 p.m. on Friday in its final game before Christmas break. Alpena will close the year by hosting a two-game series with Escanaba on Dec. 29-30.