By CHRIS DOBROWOLSKI
---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Last weekend was good for the Traverse City Hounds, both on and off the ice.
On the ice, the Hounds started their season off on the right foot and came away with three decisive victories over the Berkley Bruins. Off the ice, the road games were good for team camaraderie, providing a chance for a young team to bond. With that weekend under their belts, the Hounds are set for their home opener at 7 p.m. on Friday at Centre Ice Arena against the Alpena Street Cats.
“It’s nice to be on the road when you start. You hang out, you’re on the bus, you’re in a hotel,” said Hounds coach Scott Gardiner. “We’ve got almost a completely new team, so it was a very good weekend for us. Now the boys are very excited to get back in their own building and see what we can do against a very good Alpena team. They seem like they’re going to be very tough.”
Like Traverse City, Alpena finished undefeated over the opening weekend. The Street Cats swept three games from the Bloomington Jr. Blaze, 12-2, 4-1 and 4-2.
“They’ve got a Russian coach and they’ve got a lot of import players. They’re mainly Russians. I know they’ve got a few Canadians,” said Gardiner. “With the Russian style of play I’m not expecting a real physical contest, more so a skill and passing team. Evidently they played very well against Bloomington, as they took all three games as well. I think we’re going to see a highly-skilled hockey team. We’re going to be ready for that.”
Forward Pavel Bocharov led the Street Cats on the weekend offensively with four goals and four assists, but it was the Alpena defense that was a big key to its three wins. Goalie Vladislav Graevski was between the pipes for all three games, making 90 saves on the way to winning the Midwest Junior Hockey League’s Goalie of the Week award. Defenseman Savelii Shurikhin, who was the league’s Defenseman of the Week, had a goal and six assists.
Traverse City’s Garrison Sanipass earned the Rookie of the Week honor after leading the Hounds in scoring with five goals and nine assists, putting him second in the MWJHL in scoring in a weekend that saw the Hounds tally 29 goals in three games. Still, Gardiner saw some areas that needed work.
“We didn’t execute some things that we normally do as a team,” he said. “I guess we can’t expect that in the first weekend. There’s certain systems and forechecks and d-zone stuff that we’ll be working on and we’ll be working to perfect those by the end of the season, so I certainly don’t expect it to happen right away.
“Overall, I was very happy with the effort and execution of most of our systems. It was a good weekend.”
Friday’s game will be Public Safety Appreciation Night for police officers, firefighters and EMT personnel on hand for the game.
“It should be a very fun, exciting night,” said Gardiner. “I’m hoping for a big crowd.”