MARQUETTE - For Jesse Junttila - the former Calumet Copper King, current Marquette Electrician and future Northern Michigan Wildcat - timing was everything this weekend.
The 17-year-old defenseman from the Copper Country followed up his pair of game-tying goals in a win and loss on Saturday with the series-clinching goal 55 seconds into overtime on Sunday to give the Electricians a 1-0 victory over the Detroit Falcons in Game 3 of the best-of-three Michigan Amateur Hockey Association state play-in playoff series at Lakeview Arena.
"It was just a good weekend and a good series all around," Junttila said. "I don't know how I came across those goals, but I just worked hard and it ended up in the back of the net."
Marquette Electricians’ defenseman Jesse Junttila (10) of Calumet takes the puck out of the defensive zone during Game 3 of a state playoff series against the Detroit Falcons on Sunday. (Journal photo by Matt Keiser)
Electricians' forward Easton Viitala, who was credited with an assist on the game-winner, won the initial faceoff to feed Junttila the puck back at the blue line. Junttila was able to blast his shot through traffic, catching a couple Falcon legs on the way to redirect the puck into the back of the net.
The Electros now move on to the MAHA Midget AAA Major tournament that runs Wednesday through Sunday in downstate Taylor.
The Electros open with the Lansing Capitals at 7 p.m. Wednesday.
"I thought our kids played a great game," Electricians coach Mark Nebel said. "I thought we started out slow in the first period. They are a very good team. It was physical at times. Both goaltenders played well and fortunately we got a lucky bounce at the end."
On Saturday afternoon, Junttila scored the game-tying goal in Game 1 with 5.5 seconds remaining in regulation. Teammate and fellow future Wildcat Brett Heikkila of Marquette eventually put away the game-winner in double overtime to put Marquette up 1-0 in the series following the 4-3 win.
Junttila struck again in Game 2 on Saturday evening, scoring with 15 seconds remaining to again put overtime in play, however, the Falcons responded with 3.8 seconds to go to win 32 and force Sunday's decisive Game 3.
The three clutch scores this weekend lifted Junttila's goal total to 13 with four coming in the last five playoff games.
Nebel said Junttila has always had the speed to be an offensive defenseman, but it's his awareness of when to strike and when to stay back that has allowed him to flourish down the stretch.
"The last couple weekends he has played some great hockey," Nebel said. "He's just wanted it. He wants to advance to the states. He wants to go down there at this level and compete at the state tournament. He did everything he could do to prove that."
Charlie Mitch of Brown Deer, Wis., made 32 saves for the Electricians in the win. According to Mitch and his head coach, containing rebounds was key in the goalkeeper's shutout of the Falcons.
Mitch said when in doubt, it's best to cover the puck.
"If you cover, they don't have another chance to score," Mitch said. "Cover everything, put it in the corner, get everything out of play. Do something with it, as long as they don't have another shot."
Notes: Marquette was without forward Dusty Goupille of Negaunee and forward Brett Love of Marquette after both received fighting penalties at the conclusion of Game 2 Saturday night. ... Detroit Falcons head coach Chris Slater was also suspended for Game 3 after his team picked up 15 penalties in Game 2. Slater was also involved in a heated postgame confrontation with Electricians' players and coached following his team's win in Game 2.