Sam Erkkila doesn’t want to think about it, but he has to. The way last season ended has been motivating him since the first moment he stepped on the ice for the 2017-18 season.
He knows the highs of winning and the lows of losing on the biggest stage. Erkkila was there last season when Calumet lost to Warren DeLaSalle in the state finals.
Now, he wants to get back, and this time, he wants to win.
“It is a huge motivation,” he said. “When you lose in a final game, it just makes you work more and more to get back. I hate to think about last year and the loss that we had, but I’m always thinking about trying to get back.”
But before he can battle on the biggest stage, Erkkila and the Copper Kings have to get out of Region 17.
They took care of the first step on Thursday in the MacInnes Student Ice Arena with a 9-1 mercy-rule win over Jeffers.
It was quick for the Copper Kings, but certainly not painless for the Jets.Calumet led by one goal for most of the first period, a manageable deficit for any team to overcome. But with 2:29 left in the frame, Calumet reminded the Jets what it means to be the No. 2 team in the state.
The Copper Kings fired off three goals to end the period, taking a four-goal lead and virtually ending the contest before the second period had even begun.
“To break it open and get three goals like that, no matter what, that is defeating for a team to give up three at the end of a period,” Calumet coach Dan Giachino said. “That was huge, and it kind of springboarded us for the rest of the game.”
From there, Calumet coasted to the victory, taking advantage of every Jeffers miscue and turning those errors into goals. The Copper Kings advance to the regional championship game against Hancock at 2 p.m. on Saturday.
“Our game plan worked when we executed it,” Jeffers coach Pat Nettell said. “But we panicked. We just wanted to keep them wide, and it works if you are disciplined and run it.
“Those three goals broke our confidence a little bit.”
If you’ve been paying attention to the Copper Kings this season, then it will come as no surprise that they were led by Erkkila. The junior is a mainstay on Calumet stat sheets, and this game was no different.
He scored two of Calumet’s goals in the first period and assisted on another two in the second and third periods.
With 2:29 left in the first, Erkkila fired in a power-play goal. Then, a minute later, he skated through the Jeffers defense and backhanded the puck into the top left corner of the net for a 3-0 lead.
“Sammy is the fastest kid on the ice in just about every game that we play,” Giachino said. “Obviously, there are a couple kids that can stay with him, but when he gets in that open ice and he gets going, he is tough to handle. That is the goal we want to reach with him, is to get in that open ice and use his speed.”
This isn’t the first time Erkkila has exploded for multiple goals in a short timeframe either. He did it when Calumet defeated Escanaba on Feb. 20, scoring three goals in 11 minutes for what Giachino said was one of the fastest hat tricks he had ever witnessed.
Erkkila ended that game with five goals and an assist.
“He has been playing great since basically the New Year,” Giachino said. “His point total has been jumping up and he has been having some really good games down the stretch for us.”
Erkkila has been good, no, great all season, but now the junior is playing with a bit more urgency. Playoff hockey is a different breed, and Erkkila knows that.
“Playoffs are starting, and around here the atmosphere is different,” he said. “I just try to hit opportunities for the team and get everyone going by taking plays.”
For Calumet, Jeffers was in a lot of regards, a warm up for Saturday’s regional final against Hancock.
So before Erkkila and the Copper Kings can think about state title games, they have to think about Hancock, a team they’ve lost to four times this season.
But Erkkila is ready for that, too.
“I feel like we are going to come out hard and strong,” he said. “We’ve had some tough losses, previously here that overtime game (in the Holiday Classic), but we are going to be ready.”
Calumet also got a big lift from sophomore Scott Loukus, who finished with four goals. Dean Loukus and Alex Mattila each added a goal as well.
Jeffers’ goal was scored by Michael Johnson at 6:26 in the second period.
– – –
Jeffers 0 1 0 — 1
Calumet 4 2 3 — 9
Calumet — Scott Loukus (Tanner Rowe), 1:13, 1-0.
Calumet –Sam Erkkila (Brent Loukus), 14:31, 2-0.
Calumet — Erkkila, 15:30, 3-0.
Calumet — Scott Loukus (Rylan Anderson), 16:29, 4-0.
Jeffers — Michael Johnson (Dylan Nettell), 6:26, 4-1.
Calumet — Dean Loukus (Brent Loukus, Erkkila), 8:30, 5-1.
Calumet –Alex Mattila (Gabe Coppo), 16:28, 6-1.
Calumet — Scott Loukus (Anderson), 1:53, 7-1.
Calumet –Scott Loukus (Anderson, Rowe), 5:34, 8-1.
Calumet — Brent Loukus (Erkkila), 6:36, 9-1.
Jeffers: Noah Nettell 11, Evan Pietila 3; Calumet: Nick Voelker: 10.
Jeffers: 2/4; Calumet: 2/4.
Jeffers: 0/2; Calumet: 1/2.