CHEBOYGAN — The confidence keeps on growing for the Cheboygan hockey team.
After a solid weekend downstate, the Chiefs used another quality performance to get back to .500 on the season with a 4-2 victory over the Cadillac Vikings at Ralph G. Cantile Arena on Tuesday night.
"I think the whole game, I was really happy with how our kids played," said Cheboygan coach Craig Coxe. "We had that one 10-second shutdown in the first period (when Cadillac scored two quick goals), but other than that, I think we worked real hard. I think Cadillac worked real hard. It was a good back and forth game, it could've went either way.
"I'm just happy we ended up winning it."
Locked in a 2-2 tie with under 11 minutes to play, the Chiefs (4-4) had another big moment as senior defenseman Alex Clymer made it 3-2 with his game-high second goal of the contest thanks to a nice pass from junior forward Luke Karsten. The go-ahead goal for the Chiefs came while they were shorthanded.
The Vikings (3-2) put late pressure on the Chiefs, but senior goaltender Scott Pavwoski made a pair of big saves with under two minutes to play to preserve the Cheboygan lead.
The Chiefs sealed a second consecutive win after junior forward Carson Bigger scored an empty net goal with 39.4 seconds remaining.
It was another multi-goal game for Clymer, who also scored twice — including the game winner in overtime — in a 3-2 Cheboygan victory over Macomb Dakota on the road Saturday.
"He's always been a good hockey player, and now that he's senior, he's just playing with a lot of confidence," Coxe said. "He's our go-to guy when it comes to getting something done. I'm very happy with the way he's playing, I'm very happy with his leadership qualities, or I wouldn't give him the C (captain)."
The Chiefs built a 2-0 advantage midway through the first period with goals from Cody Lane and Clymer, but the Vikings struck back quickly with two goals coming 16 seconds apart, as Kam Hearld and Henry Scmittdiel helped make it a 2-2 game before the end of the period.
Cheboygan controlled much of the second period, but several impressive saves by Cadillac goalie Dakota Vail kept the contest in a tie going into the third.
With the victory, the Chiefs have now won three out of their last four games after starting the season 1-3.
Coxe said there's been significant improvement from game one until now with his players.
"It's (improving every game) one of their team goals they had at the beginning of the season," Coxe said. "I'm happy that they're getting the goals that they're working for. One of the things we said is every game we want to keep getting better and right now — from the beginning of the season to now — we're two different teams. We're playing a lot better, we're playing with a lot more confidence, and hopefully it will continue the rest of the year this way."
The performance by the Vikings was solid, but it wasn't enough to leave Cheboygan with a triumph.
"I think the difference, in my opinion in looking at a lot of this game, was they (Cheboygan) limited our ability to get those second-chance opportunities in tight," said Cadillac coach Scott Graham. "We got maybe the first shot, maybe it was blocked, maybe it got through, and we didn't get enough traffic in front of those tight areas. I thought we had good puck movement, I think they had good puck movement at times, I think it was sloppy at times from us. I think there was enough of everything to go around. We all shared a little bit of the chaos that comes from a game, whether it's good puck possession, good puck movement, guys moving well away from the puck.
"It's obviously a tough loss, but it's still early in the season and we're just looking to develop and go through the learning curve like everybody else."
Cheboygan received assists from Warren Farver and Carson Bigger, while Pavwoski made 25 stops in net for the win.
Coxe also praised the progression of his younger group of players — including Farver, a freshman — in such a short time span.
"Some of these freshmen have been put into roles where they're playing against guys that are 3-4 years older than they are," Coxe said. "They're logging a lot of ice time, and with every game they get a little more confidence, they feel a little bit better about their game.
"I'm really happy with how all my first-year players are progressing."
Vail finished with 27 saves to lead the Vikings, while Kaleb McKinley and Taylor Owens each added an assist.
Cheboygan will compete in the Mount Pleasant tournament this Friday and Saturday.
This article originally appeared on Cheboygan Daily Tribune: Clymer leads Cheboygan hockey to win over Cadillac