HOUGHTON - For one period, the decided underdog L'Anse made a game of it, taking a 2-2 score in the first intermission with Hancock at the John MacInnes Student Ice Arena.
Hancock's depth proved too much for the young Purple Hornets to skate a full 51 minutes with, however, and the Bulldogs added three goals apiece in the final two frames to make it an 8-2 victory and book a date in the Division 3 regional finals with Houghton Saturday night.
Missing second leading scorer Dylan Hanke proved no problem for Hancock as sophomore Hunter Kero tallied his first career high school hat trick - he had four goals this regular season - while Brett Lepisto added two more to his team-high tally and freshman Dan Hill filled in on the top line for Hanke with a playmaker.
Hancock’s Hunter Kero rushes past the outstretched stick of L’Anse’s Eddie Ling during Thursday’s Division 3 regional semifinal at MacInnes Student Ice Arena in Houghton. Kero had a hat trick in the Bulldogs’ 8-2 win. (DMG photo by Michael Bleach)
"Our first line hasn't been scoring a ton lately so it is nice to see them all over the scoresheet," Rouleau said. "That line is a good passing line, they use each other well. We were missing Dylan Hanke tonight but Danny Hill filled in nicely."
Wade Hanke got the scoring started for Hancock 3:32 into the game as he flipped on a shot that L'Anse netminder Jason Rank never saw.
The Hornets responded several minutes later with Brett Hebert taking advantage of a turnover to beat Hancock goalie William Lucier. And after Bulldog forward Zach Ahola tapped in a beautiful set up from Wade Hanke, Hebert tallied again on a rebound created by Tyler Polich.
L'Anse 2 0 0 - 2
Hancock 2 3 3 - 8
First period - 1, HAN, Wade Hanke (Zach Ahola, Alex Hill), 3:32; 2, LAN, Brett Hebert, 6:51; 3, HAN, Ahola (Hanke, A. Hill), 12:35; 4, LAN, Hebert (Tyler Polich, Cody Goldsworthy), 13:16.
Second period - 5, HAN, Brett Lepisto (Dan Hill), 0:46; 6, HAN, Kyle Hauswirth (Lepisto), 3:45; 7, HAN, Hunter Kero (D. Hill), 12:22.
Third period - 8, HAN, Kero (Ahola, Hanke), 8:42; 9, HAN, Lepisto (Hauswirth), 8:38; 10, HAN, Kero (Lepisto, Dylan Paavola), 9:12.
Penalties - L'Anse 3-6; Hancock 1-2.
Goalie saves - L'Anse, Jason Rank 16, Michael Turunen 10; Hancock, William Lucier 13.
As the teams headed into the break the shot totals were matched 8-8.
"We tried to lock up them all the way through their zone and through the neutral zone and we just didn't want to give them any passes," L'Anse coach Darrin Voskuhl said. "We did that in the first period and I think (Hancock) was a little flustered by it, but we got away from that and weren't very disciplined after that."
"I think that was the best period L'Anse has thrown at us, give them credit right there," Rouleau added. "That is a very young team and from the first time we played them this year to now that is a much improved hockey team."
Lepisto put away his first of the night off a faceoff play in the Hornet zone 46 seconds into the second period.
He then paid it forward to captain Kyle Hauswirth three minutes later with a beautiful deke to free himself for an easy pass-and-finish.
Chances came fast and furious from then on, with Kero converting three of them and Lepisto adding one more.
"I think our depth just wore them down as the game went on," Rouleau said. "You need that in playoff time to have all three lines producing."
For L'Anse the first period will hopefully prove significant of things to come. The Hornets lose four seniors but return 18 other skaters.
"We have a young group and hopefully they get a little bigger and stronger and hit the weight room a little bit," Voskuhl said. "We have 14 sophomores, so in the next couple years if they do the right things we should be a pretty good hockey team."
Meanwhile, Hancock prepares for a Houghton squad they have lost three straight to, including a hard-fought 5-4 finish in the most recent meeting.
"No matter who we play, we will be the underdog," Rouleau said before the Houghton-Calumet game. "But we have shown we can play with them a bit. Nobody is expecting us to go anywhere so guys just have to get a chip on their shoulder."