CALUMET - For the past two seasons, the Keweenaw Storm U-19 girls' hockey team has represented the hockey-rich Copper Country well, reaching the 2011 USA Hockey Tier II Nationals in California and the 2012 tournament in Texas.
The Copper Country community has in turn treated the Storm generously, coming through on fundraiser's for both cross-country trips to help send the Storm to nationals.
Hosting the Marquette Sentinels Saturday at the Calumet Colosseum for a double-header, the Storm showed their appreciation for the community's support with a give-back Sloppy Joe lunch.
"It is just really nice for the girls to get to play here so they can play in front of their friends and family, especially so close to Christmas," Storm coach Glenn Patrick said. "We have been very fortunate. For the last few years we have had to make some significant trips and the support from the community has been unbelievable. We as a group felt that we should do something back. We don't get many home games, so we thought we would make it a fun experience with some hockey, some Sloppy Joes and just have everyone have a good time."
Along with some hot eats the Storm put together a scorching performance on the ice, taking down Marquette 6-2 in the first leg before holding on to win 3-2 in the second contest.
Selena Stromer paced the Storm with two first period goals in the second game - spinning in a wrist shot for the first and slapping home a rebound for the second -before Marquette equalized with less than three minutes remaining in the third period.
No matter, the Storm weren't going to lose on their community appreciation night. Just 14 seconds after the Sentinels tied it up, Keweenaw forward Jessica Schlaff lit the lamp on a solo rush to the net.
"This group of girls is so determined that when (Marquette) scored, you could feel it on the bench that they wanted to get it back right away and sure enough the very next shift (we scored)," Patrick said.
In the fourth year of the program's existence, the Storm look as strong as ever. In an area so steeped in hockey, the formation of a successful girls team was natural Patrick said.
"A lot of them played hockey with boys all the way through so it was just a natural thing for them to join," Patrick said. "In other seasons they play cross country or volleyball or track. But almost all of them have brothers that play, so they are just following in those footsteps."
After making nationals for two seasons in a row, a third trip may be in the offing for the Storm.
But Patrick isn't focusing on that yet and he doesn't want his team skipping ahead either.
"Our goal is to be playing the best possible hockey by the end of the year," Patrick said. "Every game, every period we just try to take a step up and improve so we are playing our best by March.
"They are used to doing well but it is because they work hard for it. They practice hard, they play hard and they take pride in it."