Hockey: Flivvers rally, beat Marquette 4-3 in OT

Kingsford celebrates a 4-3 overtime win against Marquette in a Division 2 pre-regional game on Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2018, in Iron Mountain, Mich. (Adam Niemi/Iron Mountain Daily News)

IRON MOUNTAIN — Even after all the euphoria of a dramatic overtime playoff win, Kingsford head coach Dennis Murvich fought back tears at his locker after addressing his team.

It’s been that kind of season for the Flivvers.

“It’s been an emotional year. We felt from Christmas on that we’ve had two souls watching over us,” Murvich said, wiping his eyes. “Gave us a heart attack tonight — good stuff.”

The souls he referred to are the two Kingsford High School students killed in a Dec. 30 accident, Taylor Bosley and Jolene Treml. Bosley was dating Murvich’s son Nick at the time of the accident. Bosley and Treml were on their way to see Kingsford play against Sault Ste. Marie when the accident occurred.

In Tuesday’s 4-3 overtime win against Marquette in a Division 2 pre-regional, the toll of the tragedy and battling through the ups and downs since then had come to a head.

Kinsgsford’s Nick Murvich, center, battles for a rebound between Marquette goaltender Dylan Sibilsky and Tanner Phillips in a Division 2 pre-regional on Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2018, in Iron Mountain, Mich. (Adam Niemi/Iron Mountain Daily News)

Down 3-2 late in the game, Kingsford tied the score and after a thrilling overtime, the Flivvers scored the winning goal.

Murvich said the post-game locker room was filled with all kinds of emotions.

Kingsford (17-7-1) faced elimination late in the game before the tying goal by defenseman Sawyer Perpich with 1:14 forced an eight-minute overtime period. Pete Ropiak found Perpich in open ice at the top of the circle. Perpich skated in and sniped a shot over the shoulder of Marquette goaltender Dylan Sibilsky.

Then, Daunte Fortner’s goal with 1:54 remaining in overtime gave the Flivvers their third win against Marquette this season.

Ropiak’s forechecking created a loose puck that Nick Murvich jumped on and immediately found Fortner speeding along the left wing at the top of the circle. Fortner took the pass and kept his shot loaded until Sibilsky dropped down. When he did, Fortner let a snapshot go that beat Sibilsky glove-side, sending the Kingsford bench into a frenzied on-ice celebration.

A crowd looks on after Kingsford’s 4-3 overtime win against Marquette in a Division 2 pre-regional on Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2018, in Iron Mountain, Mich. (Adam Niemi/Iron Mountain Daily News)

“The adversity these young men have gone through this year … I just told them I was proud of their character,” Murvich said. “They’re very deserving of this win tonight and we need to enjoy this one for a few hours and get our heads screwed back on straight and get ready for Esky.”

The Flivvers play at Escanaba on Thursday in the pre-regional final. Kingsford won the last meeting 3-2 in overtime at Mountain View Ice Arena.

Marquette struck first in the opening period with a power-play goal by Hunter Doucette. Kingsford answered with a pair of goals in a high-intensity first period.

The Redmen struck with two unanswered goals by Gaetano Cammarata and Tanner Phillips in the second to hold a 3-2 lead after two periods.

Each of Kingsford’s wins over the Redmen this season were one-goal victories.

Kingsford’s Sawyer Perpich, right, celebrates his goal in the third period with Nick Murvich during a Division 2 pre-regional against Marquette on Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2018, in Iron Mountain, Mich. (Adam Niemi/Iron Mountain Daily News)

“I honestly don’t believe we’ve beaten Marquette three times in 20 years. Ever. I think we’re like 3-60 against them all time,” Murvich said. “For us to do that this year … That’s not a bad team over there. They play hard. They were well prepared, they’re well coached. They’ve got really strong goaltending. I’m just absolutely amazed at the resiliency of this group.”

Ten minutes after the game’s end, Marquette head coach Doug Garrow weaved through four of his emotional players in the corridor outside the locker room. They were among the 10 Redmen seniors whose hockey careers had come to an abrupt end on Fortner’s breakaway goal.

“Both teams had good looks in the end. Our Achilles heel all year was really turnovers in our end of the ice,” Garrow said. “That last goal — we tried to make a play and sometimes when you make a play it doesn’t happen for you. They intercepted a pass and it was a good effort on their part and when Daunte has it in the slot like that, he’s pretty dangerous. Good on them.”

Murvich said Fortner was Kingsford’s best player in the overtime period.

“He’s our best scorer. You’ve got to get the puck in that guy’s hands in overtime,” Coach Murvich said. “I thought Murv and Pete Ropiak made great plays. Pete made a great play down in the corner to win a single battle down low, got the puck to Murv, Murv found Daunte in the slot. Give Daunte credit — that’s what he does better than just about anybody in the state is score goals. He waited the goalie out. He went down, he waited, picked his spot and buried it. Great play all around.”

Kingsford’s Daunte Fortner, left, celebrates his game-winning goal in overtime with Sawyer Perpich, center, and Pete Ropiak during a Division 2 pre-regional game against Marquette on Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2018, in Iron Mountain, Mich. (Adam Niemi/Iron Mountain Daily News)

Marquette gave Kingsford a run for its money on Tuesday, holding a 3-2 lead and on a power-play with about five minutes remaining. Marquette scored the game’s first goal in the opening period on a power-play. The Redmen took a timeout to give their top power-play line some time to rest.

“We had a power-play and there was 1:29 left and I wanted to keep them out there. If we could get a goal there and go up 4-2 I thought we had a pretty good chance of winning the game,” Garrow said. “In reality when you look at it, we kept the puck in their end for the whole two-minute power-play. We had a lot of chances.

“Their goalie came up with some nice saves. We did all we could do,” Garrow added. “It’s not like our power-play didn’t work for us. We got one goal early on the power-play and we almost got another one there at the end. It is what it is. Sometimes you win some, sometimes you lose some. Unfortunately there’s only three teams in the state that get to win their last game of the year. Hopefully Kingsford’s one of them. It’d be nice to see them represent the UP and bring a title back to the UP.”

Sibilsky stopped 28 shots for Marquette in his final game.

Evan Hedtke stopped 24 shots for Kingsford.

Marquette’s Tanner Phillips (10) battles for the puck in front of Kingsford goaltender Evan Hedtke (30) during a Division 2 pre-regional on Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2018, in Iron Mountain, Mich. (Adam Niemi/Iron Mountain Daily News)

Since the tragic accident, the Flivvers have had to find their own way of grieving while playing through the rest of the season. They seemed to have found a way on the ice by winning. Kingsford is 11-3-1 since the accident (excluding the Jan. 12-13 North/South showcase tournament).

Murvich said it shouldn’t be hard to keep the team focused as the team advances to the next round of the playoffs.

“They know what we’re going to be up against down there so it shouldn’t be hard to get them re-focused,” Murvich said.

The finality of elimination will set in quickly with his players, as it does ever year, Garrow said.

“The hard part is, tomorrow after school, they’re not going to go to the rink,” Garrow said. “That’s going to be the hard part because they’ve been doing it for four months. It’s hard on the coaching staff because you’re used to coming to the rink and now there’s a void there.”

Garrow said the three losses this season against Kingsford all fall under one of the team’s main drawbacks: a struggle winning one-goal games.

“Kingsford beat us three times this year all by one goal,” Garrow said. “That was our Achilles heel all year is we had a hard time really all year long winning one-goal hockey games. That’s the difference in a season. You have to win those games.”

Marquette 1 2 0 0 — 3

Kingsford 2 0 1 1 — 4

First Period — 1, Marquette, Doucette (J. Phillips), pp, 14:54 (pp). 2, Kingsford, L. Hedtke (D. Fortner), 8:29. 3, Kingsford, Murvich (D. Fortner, L. Hedtke), 3:35.

Second Period — 4, Marquette, Cammarata (Sterling Wright, Colin Gaffney), 15:13. 5, Marquette, T. Phillips (J. Phillips), 10:37.

Third Period — 6, Kingsford, Perpich (Ropiak), 1:14

Overtime — 7, Kingsford, D. Fortner (Murvich, Ropiak), 1:54.

Penalties: Marquette 3/6:00 — Kingsford 3/6:00

Power-plays: Marquette 1/3 — Kingsford 0/3

Saves: Marquette, Sibilsky 28 — Kingsford, Hedtke 24

Marquette’s Gaetanno Cammarata, right, skates with the puck against Kingsford in a Division 2 pre-regional on Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2018, in Iron Mountain, Mich. (Adam Niemi/Iron Mountain Daily News)