Hockey: Northmen win streak at five games; biggie with T.C. Central Wednesday at Griffin Arena
Kyle Ruggles (right) of Petoskey controls the puck behind the net Friday during a 7-3 Big North Conference victory over Gaylord at the Otsego County Sportsplex. (Matt Wenzel/Gaylord Herald Times)
Fresh off an emotional come-from-behind victory at Big North Conference rival Gaylord on Friday, the Petoskey High School hockey team pushed its winning streak to a program-record five games Saturday — but had to work a little overtime to do it.
The Northmen overcame a spirited effort from non-league Fenton Saturday at Griffin Arena and topped the Tigers, 5-4, as senior center Kyle Ruggles scored just 20 seconds into overtime to lift the surging Northmen to 7-6-1 overall.
Ruggles’ OT winner — his second such goal in the past three games — came less than 24 hours after Petoksey’s 7-3 victory over Gaylord Friday at the Otsego County SportsPlex. Petoskey overcame a 3-1 deficit in the second period to score six unanswered goals for the road win.
The Northmen have not had an unbeaten streak such as this since the 2003-04 season during which they won five of six games. They will look to carry the momentum into another Big North Conference game Wednesday, Jan. 18, at Griffin Arena against Traverse City Central.
The Trojans are 10-3-1 overall, 6-0-0 league, and ranked eighth in the Michigan High School Hockey Coaches Association Division II poll.
“It’s nice to have this momentum going and to have these wins,” said first-year Petoskey coach Brent Ward, whose team dropped a 5-3 decision to the Trojans in their first meeting. “It’s going to be a big conference game here Wednesday and hopefully we’ll have a good turnout and support behind the kids out there.
“Central always plays good, solid and simple hockey. They’re always very quick on their skates and they always play you tough.”
The going was tough for the Northmen Saturday against a Fenton team that dressed just 11 skaters, yet overcame a 4-2 deficit with just over three minutes to play in regulation to force overtime.
“There was nothing easy about this game,” Ward said. “Fenton was ready to play and they didn’t want to go home with a loss. I thought they hustled, they beat us to pucks and they outskated us, beat us through the neutral zone and they did everything better than us for about 75 percent of the game.”
Junior forward Aaron Cook put the Northmen in front just over three minutes into the first as he scored on a Fenton defensive breakdown in front of goaltender Joe Foguth.
The Tigers tied the game late in the first as Kyle Lixie scored on a set-up from Alex Broadworth and Jake Foguth.
The score remained 1-1 until the third when Cook put the Northmen in front with his second goal — this via the power play with assists from Patrick Gitre and Ken Forton. Less then a minute later, Ruggles scored from behind the Fenton net to put the Northmen in front, 3-1. Forton picked up the assist.
The Tigers then cut the deficit to 3-2 midway through the third as Danny Delong scored an unassisted shorthanded goal before the Northmen again made it a two-goal advantage seconds after their power play expired on a Forton shot from the blue line. Ruggles picked up the assist.
With just under four minutes to go, Fenton’s Ben Cislo made it 3-2 before a goal in front off the stick of Lixie tied the game with 1:41 to go.
“We ended up capitalizing on a few chances we had in the third,” Ward said. “We had a few chances here and there and luckily we had a power play going into overtime.”
Petoskey controlled the puck from the opening faceoff in overtime and worked the puck into the Fenton end. A Hunter Stinger shot from just inside the left blue line was deflected by Ruggles and into the net, giving the Northmen their fifth straight win.
The goal for Ruggles was his team-leading 19th off the season. In 13 games played this season, Ruggles has 30 points (19 goals, 11 assists) and has accounted for 11 goals and five assists over the past five games.
“It’s been great,” said Ruggles. “We have a lot of confidence in the locker room and we’re really buying in as a team. We’ve just really started to support each other.”