BY JAMES COOK
TRAVERSE CITY —
After winning Round One in overtime, Traverse City Central takes on Traverse City West tonight with the Jeff McCullough Memorial Challenge Cup on the line.
"For the last several years now, every one of those Central-West games has been tight," Trojans coach Chris Givens said. "The day of the blowout is long gone. (Wednesday) will be more of the same. It'll probably be low-scoring and it could come down to who makes the last mistake loses."
"This game is never about trying to get our guys excited or fired up," West coach Jeremy Rintala said. "It's more about trying to keep them calm and relaxed as much as possible."
That's no easy task when your rival is on the opposite bench.
West (5-10-2, 4-1-1 BNC) came out swinging last time and took control of the first period to put up a 1-0 lead on top-ranked Central (14-2, 6-0 BNC). It was almost 2-0, but a Titans goal was waived off because the net was off its moorings.
"West came out in the first period with a lot of jump," Givens said. "They were coming at us hard. They had a goal waived off and came back right after that and scored and had some other really good chances in the first period. They got some really good goaltending from Carter (Edmondson) in that game."
The Titans went up on a Nick Schultz goal set up by Jake Saxton. Central's Reily deTar knotted it up 1-1 on a Derek Schrank assist in the second.
Central's Cam Givens intercepted a cross-ice pass in the neutral zone and took it all the way for the game-winning goal.
But West will be fielding a different team this time around. Forwards Trevor Franklin and Erik Anton — both of whom missed the first match-up — give the Titans a little more punch up front.
"They'll have more depth, more scoring punch, more play-making up front," Givens said. "It's been a while until these last few games when they've had a full boat. You give them a full lineup and good goaltending, and it's going to be a good battle."
Anton isn't quite at full strength yet, Rintala said, but he could see some time on the power-play unit. Neither team scored with the advantage in the previous matchup. Anton has played in two games since coming back, while Franklin has two goals and three points in seven games since his return from a back injury.
The Trojans outshot West 43-16 in the first meeting, and Rintala said the Titans need to generate more quality chances this time around.
"We're going to have to score more than one goal if we're going to beat Traverse City Central," Rintala said. "If we're able to score three or more goals, Carter will give us a good enough chance to win. If we're not able to do that, then our chances go down drastically.
"We know that with Carter in net, we have a chance heading into every game. And we know how Central is a good team and what they bring and how much of a challenge it's going to be, but the most skilled team doesn't always win in hockey. We'll try to bottle them up as much as possible and take advantage of the chances we get and see what happens."