M&M Thunder players Elizabeth Horn (left) and Brock Jersey (right) battle a Houghton player for the buck behind the Houghton net in the first period Saturday at the Civic Center. <br>EagleHerald/Jody Korch
M&M Thunder players Elizabeth Horn (left) and Brock Jersey (right) battle a Houghton player for the buck behind the Houghton net in the first period Saturday at the Civic Center.
EagleHerald/Jody Korch
MARINETTE -Special teams and defense carried the M&M Thunder to a pivotal 3-1 home victory over Houghton Saturday.

The Thunder killed off 11 of 12 penalties, and they scored on two of their four power plays.

The win improved the Thunder to 3-2 in the Great Lakes Hockey League. Mackinaw City leads the league. Houghton, Calumet, Marquette and Sault Ste. Marie are right behind the second-place Thunder.

"We wanted to play in a more competitive league," Thunder coach Frank Best said, "and now finally, after a couple years we may have found what we're looking for."

Colin Hass scored on a power play to give the Thunder a 1-0 lead with 4:45 in the second period. Denin Bieberitz and Andy Swanson earned assists.

Houghton tied the score on a power play just seven seconds into the third period when a Thunder player tried to clear the puck and it hit a Houghton defenseman.

The Thunder regained the lead four minutes later on a power play. Bieberitz scored on assists from Gunther DeDamos and Hass.

Just 20 seconds later, Brock Jersey scored on assists from Elizabeth Horn and Hass.

"It was a real up-and-down, even game," Best said. "They're one of the better teams in the league."

Thunder goalie Zak Giese made 23 saves, and the Thunder generated 26 shots on goal.

"We really relied on (Giese), and he came through," according to Best.

With the Thunder shorthanded by injuries and a one-game suspension, others got extended playing time and delivered. Players such as Morgan Florek and Hunter Mans contributed mightily. So did Brendan Kriedeman, who really stepped up," Best said.

But the 12 penalties left a sour taste in the coach's mouth.

"We have to cut down on that, especially when we're shorthanded," Best said. "We were living dangerously there quite a bit."

The Thunder, 5-4 overall, canceled a doubleheader at St. Ignace on Sunday. The M&M team will play at Calumet on Friday and Saturday.