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Wildcats win first game of Thanksgiving Showcase

News Photo by Steve Jakubcin Alpena High School’s Lucas Weir skates during the Wildcat’s game against Saginaw’s Heritage High School on Friday during Alpena’s Thanksgiving Showcase at Northern Lights Arena.

ALPENA — The Alpena High varsity hockey team (2-1), coming off an impeccable season last year, hosted its home opener against Saginaw Heritage on Friday.

The game marked the Wildcats’ first game of its Thanksgiving Showcase, where Alpena defeated Heritage on Friday before the showcase’s second game on Saturday.

Ultimately, the Wildcats came out victorious Friday night in a 6-5 shootout down to the last shot.

“We practice our shootouts at least once a week, so I was definitely confident going into it,” Alpena coach Ben Henry said. “Jonny (Rensberry) came up with some nice saves at the end, and obviously a great shot from Garrett (Hamp) won us the game.”

The Wildcats kicked off the first period with an immediate score to turn the momentum early.

News Photo by Steve Jakubcin Alpena High School’s Gavin Winterstein approaches the goal during the Wildcat’s game against Saginaw’s Heritage High School on Friday during Alpena’s Thanksgiving Showcase at Northern Lights Arena.

With about 15 minutes left in the first period, an assist from Gavin Winterstein and Bryce Moe led to a perfect scoring performance opportunity for Anthony Thompson. Thompson shot it right through the net, setting Alpena up 1-0 early.

Although the Wildcats had a lead, an answer came promptly from the Hawks, tying the game up at 1-1.

Following that goal, with just 2:46 remaining in the period, Heritage committed a penalty, leading to a power play opportunity for the Wildcats.

Sixteen seconds later, Brody Misiak capitalized on the penalty, boosting Alpena into a 2-1 lead.

That lead remained until the first period ended.

News Photo by Steve Jakubcin Alpena High School’s Gavin Winterstein approaches the goal during the Wildcat’s game against Saginaw’s Heritage High School on Friday during Alpena’s Thanksgiving Showcase at Northern Lights Arena.

Alpena continued the pressure on the Saginaw net, resulting in another score for the Wildcats. That time, the goal was credited to Clark Weir, extending Alpena’s lead to 3-1.

Still down, the Hawks were not yet out.

Right before the close of the second period, Nolan Drapp cut the lead to 3-2.

Going into the final period, Alpena just needed to maintain the score to come out with the win.

That dream was not a reality, as Heritage scored with 6:56 left in the game.

As regulation expired, 3-3 was the score going into the shootout.

Owen Gohm and Thompson started the shootout with goals for both sides, tying up the game at 4-4.

Finally, down to the last shot, Garrett Hamp took full advantage of the goalie’s poor positioning as he slid the puck right through the goalie’s legs.

Heritage took its final shot with a chance to match, but another clutch save from Jonny Rensberry ended the game in a 6-5 final.

“Going into tomorrow, our D-zone and speed has to improve. We came away with this win tonight, but, against those better teams, we have to be better in those aspects,” Henry said.

Alpena takes on Dakota on Saturday.

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