Starting out strong
The Alpena Street Cats utilized a three-goal third period to come back from a 2-1 deficit and win 4-2 against Midwest Junior Hockey League rivals the Bloomington Blaze on Sunday, sweeping the Blaze in this weekend’s three game series. The Street Cats won on Friday 12-2 and on Saturday 4-1.
This sweep puts it in a three-way for first place tie in the MHJL with the Traverse City Hounds and the Soo Firehawks.
“For our Alpena fans, we come out to pick up a first place standing. (Now) we will try to keep it for them” Street Cats coach Igor Myaskovskiy said.
Alpena scored in the first 30 seconds of the third period off a Konstantin Khramov goal. This tied up the game 2-2. Khramov was assisted by Savelii Skurikhin and Vladislav Khasanov.
Andrei Yanovich picked up the second goal of the third with 12:03 left in the game off a close net shot. He scooped it in just around the left side of the goalie, to give Alpena the lead at 3-2.
The Blaze tried to score again to tie up the game and force overtime periods. Alpena suffered from a few penalties after its third goal, but held off the Blaze offense.
Much of the success of the Street Cats during short handed play can be attributed to goalie Vladislav Graevski. Graevski played for the entire game and fended off 31 shots, many of which were mid-air glove snatches.
The Blaze pulled their goalie with about a minute left in the game. It came at the Street Cats with six men, but Graevski and his defenders once again held off the Bloomington attack.
Khasanov took possession of the puck in Alpena territory with about 12 seconds left to go. He lobbed a shot all the way across the ice toward the empty Blaze net. The puck found its home and the Street Cats went up 4-2 with 10 seconds left to go. This goal successfully prevented a tie situation.
The Street Cats win did not come easily, as both teams played evenly throughout the game. The first period was primarily a defensive showcase, as each team held off opponent scores. Graevski and Blaze goalie Cameron Lerner picked up big saves throughout the first period.
Lerner played the whole game and blocked 40 shots throughout the night.
Vladimir Mokrousov broke the scoring ice with a power play goal with 3:02 left in the first period. He picked it up from about 20-yards back and was assisted by Skurikhin and Sergey Deev.
The Blaze ran into penalty trouble about halfway through the second period. It picked up a two minute minor penalty and a five minute major penalty within 30 seconds. These penalties would leave them short handed for nearly seven minutes of the period.
The Street Cats weren’t able to capitalize on this opportunity, picking up their own two minute penalty with 7:03 left in the period. 30 seconds later, the Blaze picked up their first goal of the night off a tight net shot by Jorey Skelton. John Urmetz picked up the assist.
The Blaze then took the lead with about three minutes left in the second off a Steven Smoltz goal. Dylan Farmer and Urmetz each picked up an assist. The Blaze held onto this lead for the rest of the period, but lost it as soon as the Street Cats scoring streak picked up in the third period.
“That was pretty much our goal, to win three games this weekend and to kind of send a message (to the league) that we’re here to play and hopefully all the other teams take us seriously,” Street Cats assistant coach Eric Peterson said.
Alpena’s own Kameron Russell saw a lot of time on the ice in front of an excited hometown crowd.
The Street Cats travel to Traverse City on Friday and Saturday to face the Hounds. Coach Myaskovskiy hopes to see familar faces in the crowd.
“Our next game in Traverse City is not very far away. If any of our fans want to go there to watch the game, we would really appreciate seeing them there,” he said.
Eric Benac can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5690. Follow Eric on Twitter @EricBenac.