In Friday night's 3-2 loss to visiting Grand Haven, Mid-Michigan's top line stood out as the most dominant trio of skaters on the ice. Junior winger Carson Finney spearheaded that group, but his presence on both ends of the ice - and his two goals - were not enough to put the Marauders over the top.
The visiting Buccaneers found the net once in each period, while both Marauder goals came in the second.
The Marauders spent much of the first five minutes of the opening period pinned in their own zone, and some stalwart play by sophomore goalie AJ Stallone kept the game scoreless until his team began to find its legs around the midway point. The Marauders' first quality chance came with 11:30 to go when Finney steered the puck around the Grand Haven net and found junior center Joey Campbell drifting through the middle. Buccaneer netminder Aiden Steele kicked aside Campbell's close-range one-timer.
It was a common theme during the game, as Steele stood up against Mid Michigan's odd-man chances time and time again. "We need to be more crisp. We had some great individual efforts, but we have to play more team-oriented hockey," Marauder coach Rob Husulak said. With 5:40 to go in the period, a roughing penalty left Mid-Michigan a man down. Thirty-nine seconds later, Grand Haven forward Tristan Goss's slapshot went past Stallone's glove side and found the net for a 1-0 lead. It was the only power-play goal on the night for either team, despite a physical game that saw the teams combine for 12 penalties.
The Marauders' success in the second period began with some quality possession time in the Grand Haven end of the ice. They were finally rewarded near the 7-minute mark of the period when a wrist shot by Finney, fed by Campbells's cross-ice pass, found the net. "Finney's creativity with the puck is his strength," Husulak praised his top winger. "He's able to create time and space, and that's what makes him good."
The same duo combined for another even-strength tally with 5:05 left in the period, putting Mid Michigan ahead, 2-1.
The Marauders looked to go into the second intermission with that lead, but with 15 seconds left on the clock, the Buccaneers got the equalizer - a deflected shot from the right circle by defenseman Mac Reeser which found its way past Stallone. That score held up until 8:30 left in the game, despite multiple power play opportunities for each team. Grand Haven's third goal came at even-strength, when a wrister from the right circle by Clayton Cooper was deflected off a skate and past Stallone, who was well-screened as well by a Buccaneer player.
Grand Haven used that goal to settle into a more even, defensive mode, and Mid-Michigan never had the quality chances down the stretch that it found earlier. "We have to be better as a team, pass the puck tape-to-tape and communicate," Husulak said. "Sometimes we got caught out of position, and they took advantage of it. Mid-Michigan picked up a 4-2 win the previous night over Mt. Pleasant in their season opener.