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Congratulations Calumet Copper Kings hockey

On Wednesday evening, the Calumet Copper Kings hockey team punched their ticket to the state quarterfinals on Saturday by defeating the Houghton Gremlins, 5-1.

The Copper Kings looked tentative early in the contest, as did the Gremlins, but once Houghton grabbed an early lead, Caluemet kept pushing and pushing until they found a way to get mutiple pucks past Gremlins goaltender Jimmy Pietila and earn their second trip beyond the Region 17 tournament in the past four years.

Head coach Dan Giachino, who will be stepping down as the leader of the Copper Kings after the season ends, is hopeful that his team has what it takes to earn a state title for the school for the first time since 2008, when the legendary Jim Crawford led a team that struggled through the regular season but found its footing just in time to make a historic run through the gauntlet that is high school hockey playoffs.

Giachino does not have that hill to climb. He has one of the most talented teams the Copper Country has seen in years, especially considering that arguably the team’s top athlete, junior Tanner Rowe, centers the second line.

Despite all that talent, on Feb. 18, the Copper Kings ran into the Gremlins at Dee Stadium and were sent home with a loss, one of four losses in their final seven games to close out the regular season. That loss created a sense of intrigue heading into the regional tournament.

While the win itself is impressive, what is more important is to remember that these athletes are teenagers. They make mistakes. The pressure of playing in a game of this magnitude is not easy to deal with.

The early portion of the game was a good reminder of how pressure can affect an experienced player as senior Hunter Rowe’s shot was blocked by Gremlins senior Niko Rajala. Rajala then exploded up the ice, leaving Rowe in shock over the shot as the Houghton winger skated in and beat goaltender Alex Studebaker for the lone goal his team scored on the night.

From here, Calumet travels to Marquette Saturday to face Gaylord. It will be interesting to see just what this group does from here, because winning the Region 17 Tournament was not guaranteed before the tournament began, even with all the talent the team possesses.

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