The No. 12 jersey hung in Hancock’s locker room for nine days. In that span, Hancock played two games and had numerous practices. Finally, the owner of the jersey couldn’t take it anymore. Nine days felt like an eternity: He had to put the red, gold and white garment back on.
“That jersey needed to be on again,” Teddy Randell said. “Just putting that thing on with Bulldogs on the front puts a smile on your face. I’ve been itching to get back on the ice, so I had to try and play.”
Randell suffered a pinched nerve in his shoulder against Green Bay Bay Port on Jan. 19 and had been day-to-day ever since. The senior wasn’t planning on playing until he got to the rink on Tuesday night. Randell planned to skate and practice a bit, but when he got into the locker room he suddenly felt as though he could play.
And the Bulldogs needed him. Randell netted two goals as No. 1 Hancock defeated No. 3 Calumet 3-1 at the Houghton County Arena.
“It just shows what he means to this team,” Hancock coach Dan Rouleau said. “People say ‘Well one guy shouldn’t make that much of a difference,’ but look at the score sheet. He had two goals and an assist, so one guy does make a difference when it’s Teddy.”
Rouleau was reluctant to play Randell because as the season begins to wind down, he wants Randell healthy for playoffs. But as Hancock walked out of the locker room and approached the ice prior to the puck drop, Randell went up to his coach.
“This was as close of a game-time decision as you can get,” Rouleau said. “We were walking down the steps and he said, ‘Ok I can play.’ Game-time decisions are usually a half hour before the game, this was a half minute. He is a tough kid and he wants to get out there so bad.”
Randell was especially eager to play because of the gravity of this contest. Not only is it a rivalry with Calumet, but the Bulldogs also knew a win would get them that much closer to securing the conference title. Now, after defeating Calumet they are three points (one win and one tie) away from clinching — Houghton and Kingsford remain in the hunt.
It was a must-win game for Calumet (6-10-2), but Hancock (16-3) was just as hungry. The last time the Copper Kings faced off with the Bulldogs, Hancock came away with a 5-4 double overtime win in the MacInnes Holiday Hockey Classic at Michigan Tech on Dec. 27.
On Monday, the parking lot was packed and the arena was filled to the brim, but fans got a totally different game this time.
“I thought it was a different style of play,” Calumet coach Dan Giachino said. “When we played them the last time, it was a little bit more wide open up and down the ice. Today both teams were a little bit more defensive; there weren’t a lot of shots on either end.”
Calumet finished with 19 shots and Hancock had 23.
Both teams are capable of wracking up the goals — Hancock averages 5.5 goals a game and Calumet averages 3.6 — but this time, defense was the emphasis.
“I think both teams did a nice job in front of their own net,” Giachino said. “I thought both goaltenders had a nice game without giving up a lot of rebounds; there wasn’t a lot of secondary shots. That is where most goals come from is on those second and third opportunities.”
Hancock’s Dawson Kero finished with 18 saves and Calumet’s Nick Voelker recorded 20.
Perhaps Hancock’s biggest stop of the game came as the first period was winding down, and not at the hands of Kero. The Bulldogs had taken a 1-0 lead on a Randell goal 3:35 into the game, but from there it had been an even contest, and Calumet was hunting for an equalizer. Kero dove to deflect a shot and was caught out of position, but the Bulldog defense got the puck just in time.
“It was just laying right on the crease there and we were able to clear the puck,” Rouleau said. “That would be one of those greasy goals, a rebound just waiting to be tapped in, and luckily our guy got to it before theirs.”
Hancock was able to take the one-goal lead into the second period and build on it from there.
Randell scored his second goal of the game with 4:25 gone by in the frame, and two minutes later Alex Nordstrom tapped in another for a 3-0 lead.
The two goals were particularly disheartening, Giachino said, because up until that point (and not counting Randell’s first tally), the Copper Kings had been nearly perfect.
“We had two breakdowns in the second period,” he said. “One was on a line change, a bad line change that we got caught on, and we got caught cheating on a power play. The unfortunate part is they have two really good players, and of course, those two guys got the puck in those two instances when we made some mistakes.”
And Randell and Nordstrom are the kind of players that make teams pay for their miscues.
“I think we did a good job of (stopping them) for the majority of the game,” Giachino said. “You have to stay physical on them, you have take away their time and space. You can’t give those two guys speed through the neutral zone. That is where they are at their best, when they are going at full speed. We gave them two opportunities like that and they made us pay for both of them, so when you do a good job for 48 minutes out of 51, it is a little bit frustrating, but hats off to them, that is what good players do, they take advantage of their opportunities.”
Hancock’s defense was able to hold off Calumet as the Copper Kings attempted to rally late in the game.
With 6:24 left to play, Gabe Coppo scored to cut the lead to two goals. Giachino called a timeout with 1:24 on the clock and pulled Voelker from the net in hopes of getting two quick goals, but the Copper Kings fell short.
“This was a big game for us in terms of having any shot at winning the conference,” Giachino said. “Obviously it was a big game because of that, but any time Calumet, Houghton and Hancock play each other, we are three of the top five, six teams in the state, so these are big games and we certainly take them as that.”
Hancock has won all four of the teams’ meetings this season.
Next up. both teams travel to Trenton for the MIHL Prep Hockey Showcase. Hancock plays the No. 2 team in Division 2, Plymouth on Friday, and Calumet takes on fellow Division 3 opponent No. 2 Flint Powers Catholic.
– – –
Calumet 1 2 0 — 3
Hancock 0 0 1 — 1
Hancock — Teddy Randell (Colton Salani, Bryce Randell), 3:35, 1-0.
Hancock — Teddy Randell (Colton Salani), 4:25, 2-0.
Hancock — Alex Nordstrom (Teddy Randell), 6:49, 3-0.
Calumet — Gabe Coppo (Scott Loukus), 10:36, 3-1.
Saves: Calumet, Nick Voelker 20; Hancock: Dawson Kero 18.
Calumet: 2/4; Hancock: 3/6.
Calumet: 0/3; Hancock 0/2.