Team Copper Country qualifies for national tournament
PORT HURON — With a 2-1 win over the Oakland Jr. Grizzlies on Sunday morning in the 2017 MAHA State Semifinal, Team Copper Country 18U Tier 2 earned the right to play the Lansing Spartans in the championship game.
Thanks to the fact that Lansing will be hosting the national tournament in a few weeks’ time, Team CC earned a spot in that tournament despite a 4-2 loss to the Spartans.
Disappointed they lost the fifth game of the weekend, Team CC still had plenty to be excited about, especially considering the fact that their relatively short bench was made even shorter with injuries and illness throughout the weekend.
“We don’t feel good about losing,” said coach Micah Stipech. “Under the circumstances, [we are] happy with our effort, the character our boys showed. Having a second chance here and knowing that we are going to get players back, and we will be rested, we will be a different team.”
In the semifinal against Oakland, Team CC’s top line of Calumet’s Rory Anderson and Hancock’s Alex Nordstrom and Teddy Randell came up with both goals in the win.
Anderson struck first just 4 minutes, 4 seconds into the second period, breaking a scoreless tie. Randell picked up the lone assist on the goal.
After the Grizzlies evened the game 3:41 later, the teams played to a standstill until the late stages of the middle frame when Nordstrom snuck one through with just 12.2 seconds in the period. The goal would stand as the game-winner.
“They did account for a lot of our scoring, but we had balanced scoring throughout,” said Stipech of the big line. “We changed the lines up after Game 2, and we stuck with those lines throughout the rest of the tournament.”
In the championship game, the top group evened the game at a goal apiece when Anderson found the net at 15:13. Nordstrom and Houghton’s Dawson McKay assisted.
That goal was an important moment for Team CC as the Spartans had a distinct gameplan they implemented to slow down their opponents by hitting them early and often. As they had during the fall portion of their season, when the Spartans got physical, and the much younger Team CC group unraveled and were whistled for things like slashing and hooking, rather than outwork their opponent.
With no resurface between the first and second periods, Stipech and his staff had to make adjustments quickly and get their skaters’ games back on track.
“This game was different from high school in that it was very physical,” said Stipech. “You have to be able to play different kinds of games. There was no space. It was a battle.
“In the first period, they came out and punched us in the mouth. By the third period, we were carrying the play and we were really in their zone the entire third period, practically. Over the course of that game, you saw the character in those kids come out.”
Houghton’s Kevin Bostwick and Hancock’s Brody Budweg took penalties during the same sequence, putting the Spartans on a 5-on-3 power play for two minutes. The Spartans regained the lead during the advantage.
A little over six minutes later, Team CC evened the game again when McKay struck at 12:30. Houghton’s Jacob Kruse assisted on the goal.
The good feelings only lasted a handful of seconds, however, as the Spartans regained the lead just 19 seconds later.
Lansing would ice the game late in the third period to earn the 4-2 victory.
Team CC, despite injuries and 14 minutes in penalties, stuck with the game plan and showed a level of maturity beyond their years in the game.
“I was really proud of how they battled and how much heart they have,” said Stipech. “If that game is a sign, I think those kids can deal with that kind of game just fine.”
In the opening game of the tournament for Team CC, Hancock’s Lance Kangas had a strong game, scoring twice and adding three assists as the team scored seven unanswered goals in the second and third periods to defeat the Metro Jets, 7-2.
Nordstrom also had a strong night with a goal and two assists. Randell finished his night with three assists.
Against Kensington Valley on Saturday morning, Team CC scored all nine goals in the contest to win 9-0.
Nordstrom led the way with four assists in the contest. McKay scored two goals and two assists for four points as well.
In their third game of the round robin opening round, Team CC scored all 10 goals in a 10-0 victory.
Kruse struck twice and added two assists to lead the charge. Nordstrom scored one goal and four points in the contest. Kangas scored a hat trick and McKay added a pair of goals as well.
Goaltender Dawson Kero of Hancock started all five games and was extremely solid throughout the weekend as one of the leaders of the team.
“We have confidence in him,” said Stipech. “He’s been a starter, so he’s been the guy since he was a freshman. He’s played in state championship games. He’s used to being the guy.”
Team CC will hold a pair of practices after Spring Break before the team leaves for nationals in Lansing. The tournament will start Thursday, April 6.
Team CC is going to be visible in the community over the next week or so, fundraising for their trip to the tournament. They are planning a Go Fund Me page as well as looking into can collecting at local grocery stores and will also take donations.