BY DENNIS CHASE email@example.com
Traverse City Record-Eagle
---- — TRAVERSE CITY — It took a trip to Traverse City to answer one of Dick Blasy’s most important questions.
“We knew coming into the season we were going to be a strong skating team, a talented team,” the Midland Dow hockey coach said. “The question was: Did we have the toughness? This weekend showed me that we have that, too.”
The Chargers beat the Bay Reps 6-2 Friday night, then came back to top Traverse City West 4-1 Saturday afternoon at Howe Arena.
“Two physical games back to back,” Blasy said. “I’m real proud of the way the boys fought through the entire weekend. It wasn’t easy.”
The Chargers, now 6-0, were clinging to a 2-1 lead to start the third period Saturday. This after the Titans scored with 1:38 left in the second period on a Michael Lake goal — Jake Saxton assisted — that sliced the deficit in half.
But three minutes into the third, play went behind the Titans goal, players converged and suddenly out of that scrum the puck ended up behind West goalie Tyler Buchanan.
“I couldn’t see how it went,” West coach Jeremy Rintala said. “I saw it behind the net. I don’t know if it bounced off something, but the next thing I know it was in the net. It was weird. That was an important goal, too, because at that point if we get the next one it ties it up and gives us a lot of momentum.”
Brett Brillhart notched the goal. Dow then sealed the win with 5:32 remaining when Zach Paisley knocked in a rebound off a Steven Roberts shot.
Earlier, the Chargers had picked up goals from Sully McMahon in the first period and Michael Leslie in the second.
“We came out firing in the first period Friday night (four goals), but for the most part the first period has been our Achilles,” Blasy said. “The third period has always been our period. We’re in great shape, and we have a lot of seniors with a lot of desire.”
Despite the loss, Rintala was upbeat about West’s performance.
“A few bad breaks in the third, a few costly turnovers, cost us,” he said. “Overall, though, I was pretty happy. I thought that was one of our better games of the year from start to finish. The boys are getting in the right positions more often. Now we just have to bear down and make some plays, get a few more pucks to the net for some better scoring chances.”
Each team was credited with 23 shots on goal.
“They had more quality chances,” Rintala said. “They had a couple cracks at rebounds that we didn’t get. We’ve got to work harder to get to those tough areas and get the puck on net.”
West is idle until Wednesday when the Titans face crosstown rival Traverse City Central at Detroit’s Comerica Park.
“They (Trojans) have more offensive punch than we do, but our defense is playing pretty well right now,” Rintala said. “I expect a close game.”