By Andrew Johnson
The Norsemen have finished second to Whitehall in the conference standings for the past two years. And Whitehall has owned the league much longer than that, winning the title for the past nine years.
But North Muskegon made a bold statement about a changing of the guard with a 5-0 victory over the Vikings in an early season showdown on Tuesday.
In some ways the outcome was not surprising, since North Muskegon has a lot more experience this season.
The hungry Norsemen, now 4-0 overall and 2-0 in the conference, are playing with a solid nucleus of 13 seniors. Whitehall is younger, with only two seniors on the roster.
“We knew Whitehall would be down a little from years past but we had to focus on ourselves and play disciplined,” said North Muskegon coach Jeremy Tjapkes. “We’ve been here before and understand our roll. We have 13 seniors so they’re hungry to learn and get better. When you’re hungry you’re going to win some games.”
Whitehall head coach Bryan Mahan realizes his team’s youth will be a factor this season, particularly in the early weeks.
“We’re a very, very young squad with only two seniors, and some juniors who were role players last year.” said Mahan, whose team is now 0-2-1 overall and 0-1-1 in the conference.
“When we play an experienced team like North Muskegon we have to learn and grow from it in order to compete. They just haven’t been there yet and don’t know what to expect at this level. They exploited every mistake we made today.”
Whitehall’s inexperience showed from the beginning on Tuesday. North Muskegon attacked from the start and never let up.
Senior forward Justice Sikkema started the scoring for the Norse less than 10 minutes into the game, with an assist from Spencer Mueller.
The score was 1-0 at halftime and could have been much worse, considering North Muskegon outshot Whitehall 10-1 in the first half.
North Muskegon took a 2-0 lead 19 minutes into the second half on a goal by Christian Berends, with an assist from Sikkema.
The rout was on only four minutes later when Mueller ripped a shot from 20 yards out that found the back of the net. Alex Slocum added a goal three minutes later, making the score 4-0.
Sikkema’s second goal, with 11:52 remaining, rounded out the scoring.
The Norse outshot Whitehall 17-5 in the contest. Goalkeepers Ian Collins and Zach Massey combined for the shutout.
“We were a little quicker than them tonight,” said Sikkema, a four-year starter who recently scored his 100th career goal. “It (winning) definitely puts a target on our backs for the rest of the season.”