TRAVERSE CITY — A little game management went a long way for Traverse City West.
The Titans moved their Senior Night presentation from before the game to afterward, and coach Jeremy Rintala said he was happy with the results as West notched a 5-2 win over Cadillac to wrap up second place in the Big North Conference.
“It’s always nerve-wracking coming into Senior Night,” Rintala said. “We used to always have the ceremony before the game, and it would kind of throw off our routine. So we thought it was a good idea to have it after, and it seemed to work out well. Guys could just focus on the game, and then afterward have a nice moment.”
All three Titans seniors who played put up points in the victory.
“Before the game kind of distracts from the game a little bit,” West senior captain John Linenger said. “You get your mind off things. It’s good to focus before.”
Linenger had two goals and three points, while fellow senior forward Nick Schultz had a goal and an assist and senior defender Caleb Breithaupt added an assist.
“John Linenger had a nice tip for a goal,” Rintala said. “Nick Schultz got on the board with a nice back-door play. Caleb Breithaupt made a great play on the D-to-D pass on the power play and Jacob Benker finished it off. All three played well.”
The fourth Titan senior, Jordan Stevenson, missed the game with a concussion, but participated in the post-game ceremony.
West (10-14, 7-3 NBC) didn’t waste any time getting ahead on the scoreboard, as Linenger poked one past Connor Kassuba 36 ticks into the contest. Jake Saxton drew an assist. It was the first of two times the Titans would light the lamp in a period’s first minute.
The Titans made it 2-0 on Ryan Fernandez’ wrap-around shot with 1:48 left in the first, despite being outshot 10-5 by the Vikings in the opening period.
West left little doubt to the outcome when Benker scored on a power play 20 seconds into the second period and Linenger scored his second of the game a minute later for a 4-0 bulge. Schultz, Breithaupt and Ryan Roehler picked up assists.
Cadillac (13-6-1, 5-3-1 BNC) managed a goal late in the second by Levi Rowan, assisted by Spencer Graham and Ryan Morse.
Each team scored once in the third period, as West went up 5-1 on Schultz’ one-timer goal set up by Linenger and Saxton. Cadillac’s Jordan Adlam converted a turnover in the slot into a goal set up by Keenan Kolarik and Blake Ford with 5:37 remaining.
West outshot Cadillac 28-23, including a 23-13 advantage in the second and third periods. Brendan Lacharite made 22 saves and Kassuba stopped 23.
“There were some points there where Cadillac outplayed us, but our goalie played well and our guys held it together and we took advantage of our scoring chances we got,” Rintala said. “We’ve had a hard time scoring goals, so it was good to get five, for sure.”
The Titans are off until next Thursday when they host Sault Ste. Marie, the No. 3-ranked team in Division 3, for their regular-season finale before hosting the Bay Reps in the opening round of pre-regionals.
“We’ll be ready for that one,” Linenger said. “That one we’re definitely looking forward to. That’s our next step: We want to make a run in the playoffs, and hopefully we can make that happen.”
Cadillac (13-6-1, 5-3-1 BNC) has contests with Mount Pleasant, Petoskey and Cheboygan left.
“I felt we got a slow start,” coach Scott Graham said. “Certainly not what we wanted to do. ... Things started to balance out a little bit as the (first) period wore on.”
The Vikings had a late game Monday with Alpena that went into overtime.
“We just had two slow starts,” Graham said. “We’re tired. Monday night was a really physical, spirited overtime game.”