Coming up short

Before the start of the Alpena hockey team’s game against Anchor Bay on Friday in the opening game of the Boosters Tournament, Latvian exchange student Ugis Skuja had a huge smile on his face.

That’s because Kristi Russell-Reed, sister of Skuja’s teammate Kam Russell learned the Latvia national anthem and sang it before the game. His teammates came up with the idea for an early birthday present, much to his surprise and awe. He turns 18 today.

“I was really glad to hear it. It was amazing. I was surprised how good she did. She knew the words very well and I understood every word perfectly,” he said.

Unfortunately the Wildcats’ weren’t smiling afterward as they lost 3-2 and will play in today’s consolation game at 1 p.m against Hudsonville.

C.A.A.S plays Anchor Bay in the championship game at 3 p.m.

The game started with the Wildcats already down a player as Jared Kwiatkowski is unable to play in the tournament. However, they came out strongly in the first period with an aggressive offense that lead to a near miss by Sam Rumbles two and a half minutes into the game.

However, Anchor Bay came out just as hard and took a 1-0 lead with just over four minutes gone on a shot off the stick of Austin Koleski.

Alpena began to struggle after the goal and couldn’t mount much offense . The Anchor Bay offense wasn’t much better as both teams fought to a stand still for much of the first period.

That all changed just over 10 minutes into the game when a quick pass from Joey Bracken landed on Jared Plume’s stick. Plume passed to Zack Kendziorski who slapped it in for a goal to tie the game at one.

The game turned more aggressive as Anchor Bay suffered two penalties back-to-back while Alpena suffered one of its own. This aggressive streak would come to haunt Alpena in the second period.

The second period started with an Alpena penalty 14 seconds into the period. The Wildcats suffered from three more penalties during the period which head coach Pete Doubek believed hampered their offense.

“The front line had to penalty kill a lot and that tires them out. We try to shuffle in new players as quickly as we can but even when the other players go back in they’re still tired from penalty killing. It makes it hard to start a coherent, flowing offense,” he said.

Anchor Bay took advantage by scoring a goal off the stick of Matt Carter with an assist by Matt Kaiser four minutes into the period. Anchor Bay added another goal less than 20 seconds later off a Nick Farr goal assisted by Mitch Ettel.

The Wildcats didn’t down in defeat and with six minutes left in the period, Cole Cosbitt scored Alpena’s second goal.

“It felt good to be able to contribute to the team in anyway. We had a few bad bounces that really hurt us,” he said.

By this point, Alpena goalie Brett LeTourneau had saved at least 16 shots but at 5:07 was replaced by Jesse Boilore for the rest of the game.

The third period was a more even period as both teams went neck-and-neck. Anchor Bay started the period short-handed and Alpena took a penalty 15 seconds into the frame.

At this point, the game cleaned up and very few penalties were committed. There were too many close shots to call on both sides as Boilore and Anchor Bay’s goalie Larry Parisi snatched shot after shot out of the air.

Boilore and LeTourneau combined for 28 saves while Parisi had 24.

The Wildcats kept shooting but couldn’t drop the puck into the net. With under a minute to go, Alpena had six men on the ice and were anchored right near the goal. Alpena fought hard and nearly scored with five seconds left, but couldn’t net the equalizer.

“These boys didn’t give up even till the last minute. They kept on grinding until the bitter end. I don’t want to make excuses but those penalties really hurt us. I was going to say something to the kids in the locker room about it but they were already talking about avoiding retaliation and staying out of the box. It made me pretty proud,” Doubek said.

The end of the game saw three stars awarded to the three top players of the game. Cosbitt got third star while Anchor Bay’s Kaiser got second and Austin Koleski got first.