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No. 3 Bay Reps open action at Rick Deneweth Memorial Showcase with 4-2 loss to No. 5 Marquette

Jan. 12—TRAVERSE CITY — While the 2024 Snowpocalypse canceled or postponed the majority of area games and events across northern Michigan, the Traverse City Bay Reps braved the elements in the spirit of competition against both Marquette and Mother Nature.

The Reps opened their slate of action in the annual Rick Deneweth Memorial North/South Showcase with a 4-2 loss to Marquette at Centre Ice Arena on Friday, moving their record to 11-4-2 after a battle of two top-five teams in Division 3. Marquette is now 13-2.

"That's a playoff game right there," Bay Reps head coach Mike Matteucci said. "It's a good lesson for us to learn. We're going to have to play three periods and not just half a period. We had spurts where we played good, but we need more."

The third-ranked Reps built a 2-0 lead early in the first period, lighting the lamp on two of their first three shots on goal against Marquette.

A Marquette penalty gave the Reps the man-advantage just 1:52 into the first period, and they cashed in 44 seconds into the powerplay when Lars Millar rifled the puck past Marquette goalie Cole Kelly for the 1-0 lead. Ethan Coleman and Thomas Boynton-Fisher earned the assists on Millar's goal.

Fifth-ranked Marquette picked up the offensive pressure after the goal, but the Reps took advantage of that zealousness for the 2-0 lead on a slapshot goal from Boynton-Fisher off of a long rebound from a turned-away shot. Assists went to Millar and Edward Walter.

But that early offense would be all the Reps could muster as Marquette used four Bay Reps penalties to wear down the Reps' energy and score four unanswered goals, including an empty-netter with five seconds left, to leave with the comeback victory.

After the Bay Reps killed their first penalty, Caleb Fries got Marquette on the board with 5:34 left in the first to break up the shutout. Two more penalities in the second were wiped away by the Reps, but Hunter Sandstrom fired in the equalizer as the second penalty expired to make it 2-2 after two periods of play.

The trend continued in the third as the Reps were penalized again but did not allow the powerplay goal. The effort to kill the four penalties began to show late in the period, however, and Marquette's Kyle Moyer broke the stalemate with 4:39 left in the game to suck any remaining wind out of the Reps' sails.

Tucker Welch's breakaway empty-net goal iced the game and sent a celebratory Marquette and a dejected Bay Reps team to their respective locker rooms.

"They outworked us," Matteucci said of Marquette after the loss. "They're a very good team. They are very deep. They pretty much roll their lines and it's like you're getting the same players out there every shift. That's a really, really good team."

Matteucci compared Marquette to a team that would combine the best players from his Bay Reps along with the best players from Traverse City Central and Traverse City West. With a talented and deep roster like that, he expected a hard-fought, physical battle from Marquette that would test his team.

"That's how good they are," he said. "That's a helluva a team, and they're going to do some damage."

Matteucci said the Deneweth Memorial Showcase continues to be special because of what it offers to hockey teams across Michigan.

"This is great. It brings good teams from up north and good teams from down south together in a neutral location to compete," he said. "It's almost like a mini playoff tournament, so it's great to experience this."

The Reps are scheduled to take on East Grand Rapids in Saturday's action at the Deneweth Memorial Showcase, but that is still up in the air because of the risk of dangerous traveling conditions due to the forecasted winter storm. If Saturday's game is canceled or postponed, the Reps next see live-game action on the ice when they battle in-town rival Traverse City Central at Centre Ice on Jan. 27.

"Our December into January has been crazy," Matteucci said. "We've played a ton of games, the bulk of our schedule. We've had a ton of travel; been to Detroit, Grand Rapids, the Christmas tournament here. We've had no weekends off."

Matteucci said his players are looking forward to the upcoming break to heal up, get reenergized and prepare for the final stretch of the regular season with the postseason starting to peek over the horizon.

"We need it," he said. "We're a little weary, but we've still got some fight in us."