Clutch moment: Karsten's goal lifts Cheboygan past Sault in 5-4 overtime thriller

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Cheboygan players celebrate a goal scored by junior forward Luke Karsten during the third period of a hockey matchup against Sault Ste. Marie at Ralph G. Cantile Arena on Wednesday. Karsten went on to score the game winner in overtime for a 5-4 Cheboygan victory.
Cheboygan players celebrate a goal scored by junior forward Luke Karsten during the third period of a hockey matchup against Sault Ste. Marie at Ralph G. Cantile Arena on Wednesday. Karsten went on to score the game winner in overtime for a 5-4 Cheboygan victory.

CHEBOYGAN — Luke Karsten was just looking for one chance.

Midway through overtime, the Cheboygan junior forward got the opportunity he was craving, as the puck dropped to him in the Sault Ste. Marie zone.

With one shot, Karsten found the back of the net, celebrated joyously, and helped the Chiefs end a long winless drought against the Blue Devils with a thrilling 5-4 overtime victory at Ralph G. Cantile Arena on Wednesday night.

"I thought we were going to score right away (in overtime), but we just kept working hard," said Karsten, who finished with a team-high two goals. "We had a couple breaks to catch our breath, we went in and luckily we got a shot in, the goalie turned around, and it went in good."

Facing a 4-3 deficit midway through the third period, Karsten got the Chiefs (2-3) back into the contest, tying things up with a nifty wrist shot past Sault goaltender Michael Bontrager.

While the two teams created chances late in the third, the game headed into overtime, where Karsten helped the Chiefs win their first matchup over the Blue Devils (2-2-1) since a pre-regional victory in Sault Ste. Marie back in 2012.

"Coach (Craig Coxe) hasn't beat them in 10 years, so this is a pretty good win for him and the whole team," Karsten said. "Everybody wanted to win. We've been losing at home. That's not good for our fans, so we needed a home win."

The triumph was also a thrilling one for Coxe, who was more than thankful the long drought finally came to an end.

"In the 11 years I've been coaching, this is the only the second time that I've beaten the Sault," said Coxe. "The first time was my very first year here. I thought it was a really good game, both teams played really well. They (Sault) got a really good club, both them and us are both young. I was happy that every period our players got better, and that's what we talk about all the time.

"This is huge. The boys in (the locker room) are very, very happy right now, and I'm happy for them. They've been working hard, and their hard work was rewarded tonight."

Cheboygan senior defenseman Alex Clymer (22) looks to put a shot on net while Sault players chase during the first period on Wednesday.
Cheboygan senior defenseman Alex Clymer (22) looks to put a shot on net while Sault players chase during the first period on Wednesday.

For Sault head coach Rick Mackie, he felt his team might have underestimated the Chiefs.

"We played them (Cheboygan) in the fall and got them pretty good on the scoreboard, and I think we started disrespecting them, and we shouldn't have, because I told them the whole way down they got a fantastic hockey coach (Coxe), they're lucky they have him, and they're going to come out and play hard, and that's exactly what they did," said Mackie. "Overall, it's not nearly as good enough for me to watch. It's disappointing not because of how we lost, but because of how we played. We're making really bad mistakes, bad habits, and the details of our game aren't very good, so we gotta go back to the drawing board.

"Congratulations to Craig (Coxe) and Cheboygan. They played a heck of a hockey game."

Freshman forward Ethan Shepard gave the Chiefs a 1-0 lead, scoring a goal with 6:15 left in the first period, but the Blue Devils bounced back with an equalizer from Avery Wilson just 20 seconds later. The Chiefs responded nicely with a shorthanded breakaway goal by senior captain Alex Clymer to regain the lead going into the intermission.

After the Blue Devils tied it up with a goal from Garrett Gorsuch early in the second, junior forward Carson Bigger scored to give the Chiefs a 3-2 lead. However, Wilson tied the game again with his second goal of the game. The teams remained tied going into the second intermission.

Eli Hills gave the Blue Devils their first lead of the game at 4-3 in the third, but Karsten's heroics allowed the Chiefs to come back and stun the Sault in a classic back-and-forth clash between the rivals.

"Luke is such a pleasure to have on my team," Coxe said. "This is the third year that I've had him, and every year he's just seemed to progress better and better as a hockey player. He is very, very dedicated to the sport, works real hard at becoming a better player, and I'm happy for him. That's good to get a goal like that in your home town.

"I'm very lucky to have a guy like that on my hockey team."

Cheboygan players celebrate a goal scored by senior defenseman Alex Clymer during the first period against Sault Ste. Marie on Wednesday.
Cheboygan players celebrate a goal scored by senior defenseman Alex Clymer during the first period against Sault Ste. Marie on Wednesday.

Coxe said his team is starting to click after arguably its best performance of the early season.

"I would definitely have to say they're starting to feel more comfortable with each other, especially my top two lines. They've been playing together for a couple weeks," Coxe said. "We're still working some things out with the other lines, but both those lines played really well, and I think they're starting to get confidence in each other. They're getting to know where each other is without having to look sometimes, they're communicating more, so you want to see that."

As for Karsten and his teammates, they were just happy to put on a top-notch performance in front of their home fans.

"We haven't been able to put as many goals in like that in games, but that was awesome," Karsten said. "Five goals, back and forth, we just kept going, so I'm happy with our team today."

Clymer finished with two assists for Cheboygan, which received an assist apiece from Gavin Rose, Cody Lane, Jack Lane and Shepard.

Senior goaltender Scott Pavwoski stopped 34 shots for the Chiefs.

Cheboygan's Broden Powell (16) skates with the puck during the third period against Sault Ste. Marie on Wednesday.
Cheboygan's Broden Powell (16) skates with the puck during the third period against Sault Ste. Marie on Wednesday.

On the Sault side, Treyce Moran finished with two assists, while Cayd Escherich, Andrew Goodrich, Oden Medrick and Randen Blair each assisted on goals.

Bontrager made 26 saves in net for the Blue Devils.

Cheboygan will head downstate to take on Utica on Friday, then will face Macomb Dakota on Saturday.

Sault Ste. Marie will host Escanaba on Friday.

This article originally appeared on Cheboygan Daily Tribune: Karsten's overtime goal helps Cheboygan hockey beat Sault Ste. Marie

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