HOUGHTON - Houghton's opening salvo proved more than enough to fell Hancock Tuesday.
The Gremlins got a hat trick from Connor Hannon and were up 2-0 by the four-minute mark en route to a comfortable 7-1 Lake Superior Hockey Conference victory.
"It's always good to get a good jump, especially against Hancock. It's always back-and-forth between us and them. They're a good team. If you keep them around, they'll only keep going," Hannon said.
Houghton’s Connor Hannon (18) is approached by teammates Jed Kallio (7) and Ray Brice to celebrate after scoring a power-play goal in the second period of Tuesday’s game against Hancock at Dee Stadium in Houghton. It was the second of three in his first career hat trick. (DMG photo by Brandon Veale)
Much of the early damage Hancock sustained was self-inflicted. On just the second shift of the game, Cale Markham pushed the puck behind a Hancock defenseman along the benches, creating a 2-on-1 rush. He flipped the puck across to Hannon, who buried his chance top-shelf for the lead after just 1:23 elapsed.
Just more than two minutes later, another bad turnover went right onto the stick of Gremlin sniper Ray Brice, but with his momentum already carrying him behind the net, he backhanded a pass to Casey Markham for his second goal of the season.
"We couldn't afford to be down against Houghton in this game, especially right off the bat. The turnovers were huge. Houghton's the type of team that will turn them turnovers into goals and they did tonight," Hancock coach Dan Rouleau said.
Hancock0 1 0 - 1
Houghton3 3 1 - 7
First period - 1, HOU, Connor Hannon 6 (Cale Markham), 1:23; 2, HOU, Casey Markham 2 (Ray Brice), 3:55; 3, HOU, Cole Hagwell 2 (Spencer Donnelly, Luke Haataja), 11:09.
Second period - 4, HOU, Hannon 7 (Brice, Jed Kallio), 6:57 (PP); 5, HOU, Hannon (unassisted), 11:10 (SH); 6, HAN, Wade Hanke 4 (Tanner Kearly), 12:46; 7, HOU, Tristan Foltz 1 (unassisted), 16:19.
Third period - 8, HOU, Kallio 4 (Hannon, Hunter Rajala), 5:56.
Power-play opportunities - Hancock 0-for-6; Houghton 1-for-6.
Penalties - Hancock 7/14, Houghton 7/14.
Goalie saves - HAN, William Lucier 31 (12-10-9); HOU, Marcus Gloss 24 (6-8-10).
After absorbing the two big blows, Hancock appeared too stunned to respond, spending much of the period in its own end. The Houghton pressure turned into one more goal, this time a loose rebound bagged by Cole Hagwell at 11:09 of the first.
"Just what we wanted to happen happened. We got on them, we forechecked hard and possessed the puck, had a lot of chances. I was really happy with how we started the game," Houghton coach Corey Markham said.
Hancock was only marginally better in the second period and Hannon basically slammed the door on the visitors' chances with a pair of special teams goals midway through the second. He backhanded in a rebound on Lucier's right for a power-play goal at 6:57, then completed the first hat trick of his prep career after shooting in another bad turnover on a Bulldog power play at 11:10.
"He has great patience with the puck, he has his head up and he's looking where he's shooting so, he's a real good goalscorer. He had some time tonight when he was in those situations and he put them home," Markham said.
Wade Hanke offered Hancock's only reply about 90 seconds later, and it was quickly canceled out by the first goal of sophomore defenseman Tristan Foltz's two-year Houghton career.
Jed Kallio added a goal on another loose rebound in the third for the final margin. Cleaning up in front of goaltender William Lucier and winning puck battles were a major issue for the Bulldogs.
"It was just Houghton getting to the puck before us. They just wanted it way more than us. Any time there was a loose puck, there was a white jersey there," Rouleau said.
Lucier stopped 31 shots for the Bulldogs, who host L'Anse Thursday.
Houghton, at the quarter mark of its season undefeated, has much to be happy about.
"People have talked about us going into the season as having a strong team, and I?think so far, we've done what we needed to do to win. I think our work ethic is good and as long as we work hard and don't let things go to our head, we're going to be in contention for a lot of games," Markham said.
The Gremlins, who got 24 saves from Marcus Gloss, return to the Dee for a Friday home game with Farmington Unified.