Last season the Calumet Copper Kings needed five games to pick up their first win, but once they did, their season turned around and they only lost three more games the rest of the season en route to a runner-up finish in the state finals.
Head coach Dan Giachino has been waiting for this year’s group to turn that corner. With a 3-0 win Saturday night over the University of Detroit-Jesuit Cubs, the Copper Kings may have done just that.
After a 4-2 loss on Friday to the Cubs, Giachino and his staff sat the team down before the game and discussed what they expect Calumet hockey to be.
“We kind of challenged them before the game,” Giachino said. “We showed them some of the game tape from [Friday] and then kind of got right in their face and said, ‘Here it is.’ I think they responded well.”
That was exactly what they got Saturday.
From the drop of the opening faceoff, the Copper Kings played a 51-minute game. They were relentless on the forecheck, they moved the puck well, and when they needed a key save, assistant captain Nick Voelker was there to make it.
Cubs coach Rick Bennetts felt his team could not respond to the Copper Kings’ aggressive style.
“We didn’t have any jump the whole game,” Bennetts said. “That was due mostly to the fact that they didn’t let us get anything going. They did everything that they wanted to do and didn’t allow us to do anything that we wanted to.”
Co-captains Brent Loukus and Sam Erkkila provided all the scoring the Copper Kings (5-9-1 overall) needed as Loukus struck twice in the middle frame and Erkkila provided the final dagger in the third.
After a scoreless first period saw Calumet outshoot the Cubs (7-7-0 overall) 11-3, things appeared to be heading in the same direction in the second period before Copper Kings senior defenseman Davin Lehto took a major penalty. The ensuing power play was the turning point in the hockey game, but not for the team with the advantage.
The Cubs struggled to get three shots through to Voelker during the advantage and ended up taking a penalty of their own with 26 seconds remaining. On the ensuing power play for the Copper Kings, Brent Loukus took a pass from freshman Tanner Rowe and beat Cubs goaltender Grant Gardella over the glove at 7:07 for what would stand as the game-winner.
A little over five minutes later, Brent Loukus circled out from behind Gardella’s net, looked off a pass to Erkkila, and instead buried a wrist shot inside the right post to give the Copper Kings a 2-0 lead.
The goal also evened the two-game, total goal series at 4-4.
“That was a big goal to get us the two-goal lead,” Giachino said “That was good to get the two-goal cushion and tie the series up, so to speak.”
Brent Loukus figured in Calumet’s third goal late in the third period as well. He won the draw to his brother, Dean, who made a quick play to get the puck up to Erkkila, who flew past the Cubs’ defense and in alone on Gardella. Waiting for Gardella to drop to his knees, Erkkila flipped the puck over his glove and in at 11:41.
Voelker, who made four good saves during a flurry in the second period, made two or three point-blank saves in the final 90 seconds of the game. He was helped out by Brent Loukus, who blocked a shot with his shoulder, and another Copper Kings’ defender, who took a shot off his cage.
Voelker finished his night with 22 stops.
With the edge, 5-4, in goals, Calumet was awarded the Miner’s Cup after the contest.
Calumet is off until Thursday when the team travels to face Escanaba.
– – –
Detroit-Jesuit 0 0 0 – 0
Calumet 0 2 1 – 3
CLK — Brent Loukus (Tanner Rowe, Hunter Rowe), PP, 7:07, 1-0
CLK — Brent Loukus (Sam Erkkila), 12:15, 2-0
CLK — Erkkila (Dean Loukus, Brent Loukus), 11:41, 3-0
Gardella: UDJ 11 11 11 — 33
Voelker: CLK 3 11 8 — 22
UDJ: 5/10; CLK: 4/19
UDJ: 0/3; CLK: 1/5