BIG RAPIDS — There are no secrets in this rivalry.
They’re only about 40 miles apart and regularly play twice a year — sometimes more when it comes to the postseason.
Let’s just say Cadillac and Big Rapids know each other well when it comes to hockey.
It comes down to who executes better and slows the other team down.
It was the Vikings who got that done better on this night as Cadillac beat the Cardinals 9-4 in the annual 131 Challenge Cup contest Wednesday at Ferris State.
The win moves Cadillac to 3-0 overall early in the season and marks the first time in a few years the Vikings have beaten Big Rapids in this particular game.
“This was a big win for our guys, especially our juniors and seniors,” Cadillac coach Scott Graham said. “The kids have a lot to be proud of and I think it shows what we’re capable of when we stick to the process.”
Sticking to what’s working and resiliency are what made this win possible for Cadillac.
Big Rapids scored the first two goals of the game but the Vikings bounced back with four straight to close the first period.
When the Cardinals got within a couple of goals in the third period and were turning the momentum, Cadillac responded with two goals to close out the game.
“This was the most complete, unselfish game that we’ve played in quite a while,” Graham said.
Down 2-0, Kaleb McKinley scored off an assist from Gabe Outman with 2:47 left in the first period to get Cadillac on the board. Jackson Hilt scored 17 seconds later off an assist from Henry Schmittdiel to tie it at 2-2 before Carson Carlington scored off an assist from Schmittdiel to put Cadillac up 3-2 with 1:17 to go.
Hilt scored unassisted moments later to complete the turnaround and put the Vikings up 4-2 going into the second period.
“We go from down 2-0 to up 4-2 in the final 2:47,” Graham said. “That’s a huge momentum shift and confidence builder for us.
“After they make it 2-0, you wonder which way this thing is going to go and that’s the best response I’ve seen from us in quite awhile.”
Another goal by Hilt off an assist from McKinley early in the second period made it 5-2 before Big Rapids got one back.
Outman then made it 6-3 off assists from Zach Beckhardt and Hilt before Cadyn Rossell scored off assists from McKinley and Hilt for a 7-3 lead in the third period.
The Cardinals weren’t done yet, though, and cut it to 7-4 but the Vikings responded again on two goals by Outman off assists by McKinley to secure the win.
“It really came down to protecting us from ourselves,” Graham said. “We needed to continue to grind on them and do the things that made us successful.
“You’re just never in a spot where you feel comfortable against them.”
Dylan Quartz got the win in goal for Cadillac.
The Vikings open Big North Conference play Wednesday at Gaylord.