GLHL: Wolverines continue strong start

CALUMET — It has been a while since the Calumet Wolverines have been a consistent competitor in the Great Lakes Hockey League. While they have struggled to finish around .500 each of the last two seasons, the Portage Lake Pioneers have been near the top of the GLHL standings.

Saturday night, the Wolverines, who have not won the Gibson Cup since 2007, exacted a little revenge while also making a statement to the rest of the GLHL that their start is for real. The 5-6-0 Wolverines used two points each from Byron Parks and Jeff Erkkila to overcome two goals from the Pioneers’ Charlie Turner to earn a 4-3 win at the Calumet Colosseum in overtime.

Looking to avenge a 6-5 loss to the Pioneers back on Dec. 10 and trailing 3-2, the Wolverines needed something to happen in the dying minutes if they wanted to force the overtime. They got just what they needed when Wayne Hyrkas found the back of the net with just 2 minutes, 21 seconds left in regulation. Parks and Logan Rastello each picked up assists on the goal.

The Wolverines controlled much of the overtime session, outshooting the Pioneers, 5-1, in the process. However, they struggled to find a way to beat Portage Lake goaltender Trevor Lowney until the 3:16 mark when Erkkila’s shot found a way through. Tyler Froberg and Austin Riipi both assisted on the game-winning tally.

Calumet jumped on the Pioneers early, finding daylight behind Lowney just 5:29 in when Parks found the net. Isaac Bjorn and Alex VanWagner both earned assists on the play.

The Wolverines continued to maintain a lead in shots, finishing the first period with a 16-14 advantage. To makes things even better for the hosts, Tyler Loukus added to their lead with a tally at 17:58. Eric Bausano and Erkkila were both credited with assists.

After a rough first 20 minutes, the Pioneers responded with three straight goals in the middle frame to steal the lead.

The first goal did not take long as Connor Hannon got Portage on the board when he beat Bryan Miller at 4:27. Neeco Belanger and Hunter Rajala both assisted on the goal.

With Calumet’s Maxx Fredrickson off for hooking, the Pioneers settled in to work with the man advantage. It took 1:38, but the Pioneers evened the game when Turner netted his first of the night at 7:55, unassisted.

The Pioneers continued to push the reeling Wolverines’ defense and just under four minutes later, Turner struck again, this time at even strength. Trevor Givens and Tristan Foltz both were credited with assists on the tally.

The Pioneers outshot the Wolverines 11-8 in the frame, but could not find a way to squeeze a fourth puck past Miller.

Miller played well for the Wolverines on the night, finishing with 38 saves. Lowney did his best to match his counterpart, stopping 36 in the loss.

GLHL STANDINGS: With the win, the Wolverines pushed ahead of the Pioneers in the standings and into a tie for third with the Mosinee Papermakers and the Marquette Mutineers. The Pioneers sit along in sixth with a record of 4-3-1, good for nine points, one better than the Eagle River Falcons, who are 4-6-0, good for eight points.

UP NEXT: Both teams are off this weekend. The Pioneers will play host to Marquette, Friday, Jan. 13. Calumet will travel to face Mosinee on that Friday.