TRAVERSE CITY — Traverse City Central hoisted what it hopes is the first of a few trophies this season.
Central took the Jeff McCullough Memorial Challenge Cup on Wednesday night and put itself in the driver’s seat in the chase for the Big North Conference title by beating rival Traverse City West 4-1 at Howe Arena.
The McCullough Cup is annually awarded to the winner of the second matchup between Central and West and is in honor of former Central hockey player Jeff McCullough, who died of cancer in 1996.
“It’s a big game, Central-West is always a big one, but then with the McCullough Cup and everything Jeff meant to our team and still is a big part of it today, this is one that’s just got a little extra emotion to it for us,” said Central head coach Chris Givens. “With the other stuff that was on the line, trying to stay in the hunt for the conference title, this is a big win.”
Central’s top line of Alex Oliver, Cam Givens and Parker Hebden accounted for all of the Trojans’ scoring, with Oliver notching two goals and an assist, and Givens and Hebden each contributing a goal and two assists.
“It was my last one (Central-West game),” said Cam Givens. “I wanted it, for not just our team, but for Jeff. I know he was here in some form so it was nice to get the win and finish for our seniors. (West) played hard. We knew they weren’t going to back down. It was good to see our team play a full three periods. Just a lot of emotion right now.”
Oliver’s goals came less than two minutes apart late in the first period and quickly turned a 1-1 tie into Central’s favor. The first of those two scores came within a minute after West’s Nick Schultz scored off a rebound. Hebden’s score put the Trojans ahead 1-0 at the 7:44 mark of the first period. Givens capped off the scoring with a short-handed score with three minutes to play.