From staff reports
TRAVERSE CITY — Two goals down, one to go.
The Traverse City Hounds reached their second goal Sunday afternoon, capturing the Veteran’s Memorial Cup with a 5-1 win over the Soo Firehawks at Centre ICE.
The Hounds took the final two games of the best-of-three series to claim the Midwest Junior Hockey League’s post-season tournament for a second consecutive year.
The Hounds were based in Hartland last season.
“The guys really came together,” Traverse City coach Scott Gardiner said. “They stepped up when they had to.”
The Hounds lost 3-2 Friday night, but came back to outscore the Firehawks 13-1 in the final two games. For the Hounds, the Memorial Cup comes on the heels of a regular season championship.
“We set three goals this season — win the league, win the playoffs and then go to the nationals and try to win there,” Gardiner said.
The national tournament is April 16-20 in Las Vegas. The Hounds had clinched a berth in the nationals by virtue of winning the league’s regular season, but that didn’t lessen the team’s desire to win the Memorial Cup.
“We still wanted to win this,” Gardiner said. “We didn’t want to backdoor our way in (to the nationals).”
Cam Fisher, back in the lineup after missing more than two months with a knee injury, scored the game-winner on a shorthanded goal late in the first period, snapping a 1-1 tie.
Fisher’s goal came with the Firehawks on a 5-on-3 advantage.
“That was a defining moment as far as momentum,” Gardiner said.
The Hounds led 3-1 after one period and 4-1 after two. Traverse City put 29 shots on Soo goalie Anthony Benvenuti, who had 43 saves in the Firehawks win Friday.
“He’s played well against us this season,” Gardiner said of Benvenuti. “I told the guys after (Friday), ‘We’ve got to find a way to beat him. We’ve got to crash the net harder, create traffic and play with more intensity.’ They did that. It was a very satisfying weekend for us to watch the guys play to their potential.”