HOUGHTON - As much as the term can be thrown around for a high school junior, Ray Brice and Connor Hannon can be considered high school hockey veterans.
Thus, the third-year varsity players did what veterans are supposed to do: score big goals for their team, which is what they did in a tight 3-2 win over Rochester United on night one of the Joe Bukovich Classic at Dee Stadium.
"Ray was wheeling again. He built up his speed and used that to his advantage ... Connor created offense all night and did a great job of controlling the puck. Those two guys are going to be catalysts all year. We're going to rely on them to do a majority of our scoring," Houghton coach Corey Markham said.
Daily Mining Gazette/Brandon?Veale
Houghton’s Connor Hannon tries to get a stick on a loose puck in front of Gaylord’s goal as Rochester United’s, from left, Nick Marek, Luke Brunson and Joe Marino surround him during Friday’s Joe Bukovich Classic game at Dee Stadium. Hannon scored the game-winning goal from nearly the same spot in the 3-2 decision.
Brice scored twice, while Hannon netted the game-winner with 3:35 to play.
The Gremlins, back on home ice for the first time since making the 2012 Division 3 state championship game, got all they could handle from a Rochester team already owning a win this season over 2011 D-1 champ Novi.
"They were a real physical team. We had trouble breaking it out but once we got it down, we could sustain pressure. It felt nice to get a win out of them knowing they're one of the better teams in the state," Brice said.
Rochester1 1 0 - 2
Houghton1 1 1 - 3
First period - 1, RU, Brent Boudreau (Max Harper), 13:50; 2, HOU, Ray Brice 2 (unassisted), 16:05.
Second period - 3, RU, Evan Asuncion (Frank Scheff), 8:36; 4, HOU, Brice 3 (Connor Hannon), 16:27 (PP).
Third period - 5, HOU, Hannon 3 (Jed Kallio), 14:25.
Power-play opportunities - Rochester 0-for-2, Houghton 1-for-5.
Penalties - Rochester 5/10; Houghton 2/4.
Goalie saves - RU, Kyler Patenaude 28 (7-14-9); HOU, Marcus Gloss 23 (7-10-6).
The visitors took the lead twice, first after Brent Boudreau made the right move on a solo breakaway with 3:10 left in the first period. Brice helped Houghton respond, however. After carrying the puck into the offensive zone on a long rush, he lost it in traffic but got it back in time to beat RU goalie Kyler Patenaude with just 55 seconds left in the frame.
Evan Asuncion put Rochester back up midway through the second after spinning and shooting the puck behind Houghton goalie Marcus Gloss from a sharp angle, but Brice got Houghton level late in the period a second time after taking a centering pass from Hannon and stuffing it into the side of the net on the second attempt with 33 seconds to go.
Brice said he had a 'hot stick,' a loaner from teammate Riley McKay.
"I felt pretty good about shooting the puck. I felt ready to go, I got a nice nap before the game, I just felt ready to go and in the zone," he said.
Houghton started to gain a territorial edge as the third period went on, but it didn't turn into a game-winning goal until Hannon pounced on a rebound off a face-off.
"I thought they had a little bit more energy than we did in the third period. I thought the last goal was a blown coverage on their part on the faceoff and they took advantage of it," Rochester coach Craig Staskowski said.
After a late empty-netter from the neutral zone by Hannon was disallowed for offside, Rochester had at least one decent chance at tying it in the closing seconds, but Gloss steered it aside for his 23rd and final save as well as his first prep victory.
"I thought he was solid and he's just going to get better. I'm sure he was a little nervous playing his first game, but he did a nice job and got a nice first win as well," Markham said of Gloss, a sophomore.
Patenaude stopped 28 shots for Rochester.
"We were excited about this game, too see where we stacked up. I guess it's kind of a moral victory, but we would have liked to have won the game," Staskowski said. "We hung with a really good team. There's no doubt about it. We competed. Don't know if we executed as well as we would have liked, but we definitely at least competed."
Houghton brought an excellent 'compete level' as well, going down to block several shots and playing the body all evening.
"They drew that out of us," Markham said of Rochester. "They came out and they were physical right off the drop of the puck. We had to be able to keep our feet moving and play a physical game."
In a change from the original schedule, Houghton (2-0) will play the 3 p.m. game today against Gaylord, while Rochester faces Jeffers in the early game at 1.