The Marquette Royales came from behind to defeat the Wisconsin Rapids River Kings 3-2 on Sunday. The Royales took the last two games of the three-game series against the MnJHL’s top team in the Central Division. This was the team’s first come-from-behind win this season.

“It was a good win,” said Royales Head Coach Kevin Shupenia. “When we went down the energy on the bench didn’t go down. We just kept on rollin’.”

After a long offensive possession by Marquette, the River Kings were able to break out of their zone and score on transition Luke Thurston for the first goal of the game.

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At 4:54 the Royales responded on a quick tip near the net from Colin Hass. Casey La Bonte threw it towards the net but it was deflected by a Wisconsin Rapids defenseman. Haas was able to knock it down past the skate of the goalie. The teams were tied 1-1 after the first.

Cody Stein faced two good breakaway opportunities by Leonid Anikin in the opening minutes of the second period, but was able to stand tall. Two quick penalties by Logan Stein and Blake Zabinski gave the Royales a 5-on-3 for 41 seconds, but the River Kings’ netminder stopped all seven shots on the penalty kill.

Stein stopped at least 17 shots in the second period, but still needed a little luck to escape the period. With less than a minute to go, Todd Cooper had a wide-open back door pass, but his stick snapped on the shot and the puck went inches wide.

Tyler Harkins scored just 22 seconds into the third period after getting a pass from Blake Zabrinski. Zabrinski wrapped around the back of the net as Harkins came down the slot and lifted it over Thurston’s left leg.threestars 1116

The third period got chippy as the two teams combined for seven penalties in the first ten minutes, creating special teams hockey for eight consecutive minutes.

The 4-on-4 and man advantages gave the Royales a handful of chances. Wisconsin Rapids had a delayed penalty called against Billy Wildman, but then a defensemen tipped the puck in as an own goal. The crowd cheered — but because Wisconsin Rapids touched it enough to establish control — play was stopped and the goal was disallowed.

The Royales scored on the ensuing 4-on-3 opportunity on a tip by Dalton Duquette to tie the game.

Anikin sniped Stein with a rocket from the far circle with 8:05 for the game winner. He had both game winners and three total goals this weekend.

“I started thinking more positively and had a little bit of luck,” Anikin said.

The River Kings couldn’t make anything happen in the final minutes even with the empty net. Their best shot came on a shot from the top of the point, but was quickly grabbed by Thurston.

“It really wasn’t that hard of a save. I just made it look hard,” Thurston said with a laugh.

The goalie stopped a recorded 17 of 19 shots, but the SOG totals in the MnJHL is usually lower on the stat sheet than on the rink. He received the team’s Hard Hat award, the Royales equivalent of the game puck.

Thurston still credited the win as a team effort.

“This was definitely one of the better if not the best team game we’ve played so far. The defense did a lot to keep the puck on the sides, making it easier for me to see and stop the shots.”

Marquette scored the only power play goal of the game as the home team went 1 for 8 on the man advantage. Wisconsin Rapids couldn’t capitalize on any of their four power plays.

Next week, the Wooster Oilers will make their first trip to the U.P. this season. Wooster is in second place in the division with 25 points, but the team has played three more games than everyone else in the division. The Oilers won two of three against Marquette in Wooster Oct. 17-19.

“They’re a physical team as well and always work hard,” Shupenia said. “They match up well against us and have equal talent across the board.”

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