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Northmen rout Alpena in Big North opener

News Photo by James Andersen Alpena’s Brett Najmowicz, right, battles for control of the ball with a Petoskey player during the first half of a Big North Conference game on Thursday at Park Family Field at Wildcat Stadium.

Experience got the better of youth on Thursday.

Dylan Aldridge recorded a hat trick and Hunter Hicks added a pair of goals as Petoskey steamrolled past Alpena 5-0 at Park Family Field at Wildcat Stadium in the Big North Conference opener for both teams.

The Northmen, who returned the bulk of their team from last year, were raring to go on Thursday. Petoskey outshot Alpena 20-0 for the contest and broke the game wide open after a scoreless first half.

“We knew they were a strong team,” Alpena coach Tim Storch said. “They’ve got basically their entire team back from last year and I think they remember that we handled them in a good fashion both times last year. That was a bit of a motivating factor for them as well. They definitely took it to us.”

Alpena (5-2-1, 0-1 BNC), who defeated Petoskey 2-0 and 5-2 in their meetings last year, was no match for Petoskey tactically on Thursday and fell behind quickly in the second half despite its best efforts.

Hicks was stopped on a scoring chance in the first minute of the second half and missed again about 30 seconds later.

After Aldridge tapped a ball past Alpena keeper Matt Diamond with 36:12 left, Hicks scored with 22:07 left, booting a free kick past Diamond.

Hicks’ second goal was arguably the play of the game. With Petoskey leading 3-0, Hicks tucked a free kick from in close inside the top left corner with 4:10 left.

“Credit my young guys, they hung in there, but we were definitely out-sophisticated in many ways. You would expect that with an experienced team playing a young team,” Storch said. “Eleven (Aldridge) and 12 (Hicks) for them are the real deal. They’re class players.”

Aldridge found the back of the net again with 15:39 left to make it 3-0 and scored the final goal of the game with 3:14 remaining.

Diamond finished the game with 15 saves and did his best to slow a Petoskey offense that just kept coming. He denied Hicks midway through the first half, corralled a ball after Petoskey nearly connected on a header off a cross a few minutes later and stopped several point blank chances in the final five minutes of the half.

As Alpena now heads into conference play, Storch believes Thursday’s game was an important lesson for his players on the need to keep improving.

“They got a lesson tonight in what it takes to get to the next level,” Storch said.

Alpena plays at Gaylord on Tuesday.

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