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Keweenaw Bay Cougars defeat Wayne Warriors

for MAHA Squirt B state championship

By George Pohly

FRASER – The Keweenaw Bay Cougars’ long weekend started with a surprise, and it ended with a championship.

Malecki Goyen’s second goal of the game broke a 2-2 tie midway through the third period and lifted the Cougars to a 3-2 victory over the Wayne Warriors in the championship game of the Michigan Amateur Hockey Association Squirt B state tournament at Fraser Hockeyland on Sunday.

Caeleb Nygord also scored for the Baraga-based Cougars, who avenged a tournament loss to the Warriors after qualifying for the championship round on a tiebreaker.

The Cougars’ roster features only seven skaters and goaltender Jack Fish, the 10-year-old son of coach Kevin Fish.

“The kids played pretty hard,” coach Fish said. “They’re a great bunch of kids. They never stop.

“They’re just phenomenal.”

The Cougars tied Cheboygan Werner Plumbing & Heating 4-4 on Friday and split two games Saturday before they defeated the Grand Rapids Panthers 6-4 on Sunday morning to advance to the final game against Wayne.

Before they played a game in Fraser, the Cougars’ chartered bus made a stop in Detroit on Thursday that the players did not expect.

The entire Upper Peninsula team went to the Detroit Red Wings’ game at Joe Louis Arena.

The Cougars saw the Wings play the Colorado Avalanche, and the pre-game jersey retirement ceremony for former Detroit defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom.

“It’s been pretty cool,” Kevin Fish said. “They were really excited when we rolled up to that Red Wings hockey game.

“The kids didn’t have any idea. There were a lot of big eyeballs on that bus.”

Goyen’s second goal, which came 5:51 into the 12-minute period, gave Keweenaw Bay its first lead in the championship game.

Brok Holombo and Brady Perry drew assists on the goal, which was still a blur to the Cougars’ coach a few minutes after the game.

“I’m so worked up right now,” Fish said, “I don’t remember how it happened.”

Two goals by Ryan Skikun, the second with 6:44 left in the second period, gave Wayne a 2-1 lead.

Nygord tied the game when he fired in a rebound with 1:19 left in the second period.

Wayne was on the verge of having multiple scoring chances after Keweenaw Bay took the lead.

Defenseman Milo Schaeffer broke up a Warriors rush with three minutes left.

Wayne was offside on a 2-on-1 with 2:33 to go.

After Wayne took time out, the Warriors put pressure on goalie Fish, but Schaeffer, Holombo and Goyen made puck-clearing plays.

Ross Biekkola assisted on the Cougars’ first goal of the game, a breakaway by Goyen.

Holombo finished with two assists.

Nick Beasley, Carson Muglia and Dylan Statham had an assist each for Wayne.

“We played OK,” Wayne assistant coach Matt Neubecker said. “We were a little more unorganized than normal.”

“But it was a good effort. It was a good game.”

Keweenaw Bay, comprised of 9-, 10- and 11-year-olds, has had only seven skaters, including Erik Karvonen, all season, for more than 50 games.

“That’s it. That’s all we’ve got,” coach Fish said.

Wayne’s 2-1 victory over the Cougars on Saturday was Keweenaw Bay’s first loss of the season.

The Cougars defeated the Michigan Jaguars Sharks 13-2 on Saturday.

Wayne defeated the Jaguars Sharks 12-1 on Friday. The Warriors beat Cheboygan 5-4 on Saturday.

Keweenaw Bay, also led by assistant coach Kent Holombo, won a tiebreaker with Cheboygan to advance to the championship round.



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