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Unable to adjust

Wildcats unable to overcome momentum swing in loss to Bay Reps

News Photo by Jonny Zawacki Alpena’s Tanner Orban (right) skates the puck up the middle of the ice during the second period of a hockey game on Friday at Northern Lights Arena.

On Friday, the Alpena High hockey team welcomed the Traverse City Bay Reps in a game that featured the Wildcats holding their annual “Teddy Bear Toss” in an effort to benefit Toys for Tots.

Alpena wasted little time putting a puck in the net, allowing the fans to send their teddy bears onto the ice less than six minutes into the game as Charlie Halleck sent a pass out to Wildcat defenseman Evan Kraenzlein, who fired a wrist shot over the glove side shoulder of Reps goalie Garrett Hathaway to put Alpena up 1-0.

Unfortunately for the Wildcats, once the bears were cleaned up off the ice, much of the game was then taken over by the Reps. They applied pressure throughout the contest and built on a huge second period momentum swing and skated away with a 4-1 victory.

Alpena (1-4) held its one goal lead after the first period, but the momentum began shifting in a big way with 8:07 left in the second period as the Wildcats were faced with the challenge of killing off a 5-on-3 penalty.

Alpena killed off the first penalty, but the Reps cashed in with 27 seconds to go on the power play when Andrew Bankey slid the puck past Wildcat net minder Jimmy Bolanowski on assists from Joe Matteucci and Cam Newman to tie the game at a goal apiece after two periods. The Reps kept the puck in Alpena’s end most of the period and applied a lot of pressure and had the Wildcats reeling after the second intermission.

“You could see the momentum switch. It just changed after we took that second penalty and we were flat. You saw the young team and our decision making and not trusting their linemates and it all snowballed. That’s the hard part with a young team, once you hit adversity, then it’s panic and that’s what we did was panic,” Alpena coach Chris Limback said. “You could see just the whole game just change for us and that’s the hard part. Those are the growing lessons that you have to get through. You could see the heads were down and I thought the Reps played good the second and third, they came out and skated. That’s a good quality hockey team that just moved and made things happen, we were just on our heels a lot this night and they were by far the better team in the second and third.”

The third period was much of the same as the Reps took it to Alpena.

Traverse City took the lead less than two minutes into the third period when Kaleb Miller got loose on a breakaway and buried a shorthanded goal on an assist from Ben Polomsky to put the Reps up 2-1.

Less than a minute later, Traverse City extended the lead, once again cashing in on a power play opportunity as Newman got the puck past Bolanowski after a scrum in front of the net.

“We were willing to forecheck in the first period. We were willing to skate and you could see that start to change and we started to glide which gave their defensemen time to make easy breakouts and again, the game of hockey is simple if you’re willing to skate, but we’re just not willing to put that extra effort in and we glide a lot out there and when we do that, we’re not going to win a lot of hockey games,” Limback said. “It’s just crazy the momentum and how quickly the heads can go down, 51 minutes is a long time for these kids to stay focused and compete at this level and you can just see when we check out and we become frustrated. It’s another good learning night, we have some time off and then we have a really tough test next weekend.”

After not getting much going on the offensive end, Alpena decided to empty its net with three and a half minutes left in the game. The Wildcats began getting some pressure, but still couldn’t create enough quality scoring chances and with 22 seconds remaining, Garrison Waugh sent a puck from his own blue line in the middle of the Wildcats’ empty net to seal the deal.

The Wildcats return to the ice next Friday when they travel to Gaylord to compete in the Division 3 showcase. Alpena will face off against Flint Powers at noon on Friday and return to ice Saturday against Grand Rapids Catholic Central at 10 a.m.

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