CALUMET - Coming off a 6-2 exhibition win over Brock University Saturday, the Michigan Technological University hockey team was guaranteed a win Sunday in its second annual intrasquad scrimmage at Calumet Colosseum - and the community came out on top, too.
"It was a great day. First and foremost a great turnout by the community, and I think they had a lot of fun," Tech coach Mel Pearson said. "You could tell from the skate with the Huskies how many people were out there, whether they had skates on or not, I think there was a good time had by all."
The Black Team came back from a 2-1 halftime (the teams played two 25-minute halves) deficit to win 3-2 over the White Team, but the game was about much more than the result for the 600-800 people in attendance.
Stephen Anderson/Daily Mining Gazette
Michigan Technological University junior forward Milos Gordic, front, and sophomore defenseman Justin Fillion, behind him in white, sign autographs for kids after Sunday afternoon’s intrasquad scrimmage at Calumet Colosseum.
A free-will donation and silent auction raised an estimated $2,500 ($1,300 gate receipts, $1,200 auction) that will be split between the Calumet Hockey Association and the Copper Country Junior Hockey Association. A Great Lakes Invitational travel package went for $400 and a 40-inch TV went for $350. Erickson Crowley Funeral Home donated several big-ticket items and Aspirus Keweenaw was the major sponsor of the event, while Pat's Foods donated food and the Library Restaurant brought equipment and helped with food preparation during the pregame tailgate.
Local kids also had the opportunity to meet and get autographs from their hockey heroes on the ice after the scrimmage.
"It's great every time you get to come out in the community and give back to the little guys that come out to our games," said freshman forward Alex Petan, who tallied a hat trick in Saturday's game. "It's always fun to mingle with them and give them autographs and make their day happy, and it makes us happy as well."
Petan was on the winning Black Team, which got goals from David Johnstone in the first half, and Patrick Anderson and Brad Stebner in the second half. Walk-on Dylan Etelamaki from Ishpeming and sophomore Hancock native Tanner Kero scored for White.
Team captain Carl Nielsen was on the Black Team, and he thought this year's event surpassed last year's.
"I was happy to be on the black team, which came back and won, but it was great to be out here with the fans and sign autographs for the little kids. It was just a great time," Nielsen said. "I think it was a little better this year. We got more time afterwards with the kids."
Last year's event, which took place during Tech's Christmas break, was part of a doubleheader with a Calumet Copper Kings game, but this year the Huskies had the historic arena all to themselves.
"I thought our players did an excellent job hanging with the kids and signing autographs and conversing with them, so I thought this year was much better," Pearson said.
Pat Ruohonen, who brought her grandchildren Irene and Chad Pennala, 10 and 4, respectively, appreciated the event.
"It's just a great family thing in the Copper Country," she said.
Pearson thought the players put forth a solid effort on the ice, too, and future lineup decisions were further complicated by clear depth up and down the roster. The goaltending battle continues to take center stage between senior Kevin Genoe and freshmen Pheonix Copley and Jamie Phillips.
"They all played well. It's going to be a hard decision, because they've made it hard, which is what you want," Pearson said. "By Tuesday we'll at least be leaning to one guy as a starter (for Thursday's regular season opener at Lake Superior State), but I think you'll see more than one guy start a game in the next couple weeks because it's a close race."
The Huskies travel to Sault Ste. Marie Thursday before returning to Houghton Saturday on Tech sports Hall of Fame Day, to cap off the home-and-home series against the Lakers at 7:07 p.m.