CALUMET - For the fourth year in a row, the first win of the season is in Calumet's back pocket after game one of the 37th Copper Island Classic Friday at Calumet Colosseum.
For the first time in a while, the John A. Sherf Trophy isn't yet.
The Copper Kings won game one of the two-game total-goals series 3-2 Friday, but much remains to play for in tonight's finale.
"We're happy to win but we've got to be better than that," Calumet coach Jim Crawford said.
For the first time in several years against Calumet, the Bulldogs controlled the play for stretches and severely limited Calumet's scoring chances, turning the contest into a duel of breaks and mistakes.
Hancock made the fatal error, turning the puck over to senior Brendan Jacques with about five minutes to play. Jacques charged in alone, and though Hancock junior goalie William Lucier made the first save, Bryce Johnson followed the play and poked in the game-winner at 12:07.
Hancock1 1 0 - 2
Calumet1 1 1 - 3
First period - 1, HAN, Tanner Kearly 1 (Casey Nicholas), 14:48; 2, CAL, Maxx Frederickson (Evan Billeck), 15:36.
Second period - 3, HAN, Brett Lepisto 1 (unassisted), 7:40; 4. CAL, Brendan Jacques 1 (Bryce Johnson, Robert Erkkila), 12:41.
Third period - 5, CAL, Johnson 1 (R. Erkkila), 12:07.
Power-play opportunities - Hancock, 0-for-4; Calumet, 0-for-4.
Penalties - Hancock 6/20, Calumet 7/22.
Goalie saves - HAN, William Lucier 18 (7-7-4); CAL, Brian Rogers 17 (7-6-4).
"I thought we played well. We dominated shifts at times and for one point in the second period we dominated a shift for four minutes straight and they come back on a missed assignment and get a goal. That's heartbreaking for a team, to give one up like that after you've dominated a couple of shifts," Hancock coach Dan Rouleau said. "Then again, in the third period, we dominated a shift, they come back, we missed an assignment and they got another goal."
That's the only difference going into tonight's finale, making it hard for the Bulldogs to be too disappointed with Friday's outcome, considering they've lost the last three series openers at the Colosseum by a combined 17-2.
"I thought the game could've went either way. I don't think we played bad by any stretch of the imagination. One-goal game going into tomorrow, it's going to be an interesting game tomorrow, I'm sure," Rouleau said.
On the flip side, Calumet didn't exactly consider its victory vintage, either.
"We've got a lot of young guys on the team, new guys, and it was different, that's for sure. It wasn't like last year's first game. Seemed a lot faster last year," Crawford said.
Calumet had just 21 shots on goal. Hancock, which finished with just 19, also felt like it left some offense on the table.
"Whenever we get pucks in the grade A areas, we have to get shots on net and a lot of times we didn't tonight," Rouleau said.
What the game may have lacked in scoring chances, it didn't lack drama or hard hitting, as neither side led by more than a goal and both Hancock's early leads were nullified within five minutes.
Hancock scored first, as Casey Nicholas hit Tanner Kearly with a first-class backhand pass on the doorstep for the opener at 14:48 of the first. However, Calumet responded within a minute, as Maxx Frederickson's shot from the left circle hit at least one skate before getting behind Lucier 48 seconds later.
After another long stretch of scoreless play in the second period, Brett Lepisto put the Bulldogs back ahead after breaking shorthanded down the right side. Calumet goalie Brian Rogers stopped the initial effort, but Lepisto followed the shot to score the 2-1 goal as the Hancock penalty expired.
The goal triggered another long period of Hancock play in the Calumet end, but it ended in a 3-on-2 transition for the Copper Kings' top line. The puck came to Jacques, who buried it in the top corner to send the game to the final period tied.
"They're really good hockey players, some of the best players in this area, and they'll make you pay if you miss an assignment, those guys will put the puck in the net most nights," Rouleau said.
Indeed, the same line of Jacques, Johnson and Robert Erkkila came forward for the winner in the third period.
Calumet spent much of the last five minutes shorthanded but Rogers was equal to whatever Hancock threw at him down the stretch. He finished with 17 saves and his first prep victory.
Lucier stopped 18 shots in defeat for Hancock, which will try to do to Calumet's one-goal lead in the series what Calumet did to its one-goal leads in Friday's game.
"Tomorrow night, we've got to come out right away and maybe get a two-goal lead instead of a one-goal lead. If we get that first one tomorrow, we've got to build off of that and get the next one," Rouleau said.