Calumet opens Region 17 tourney with thrilling 2-1 win over Hancock
HOUGHTON — It is hard to repeat as state champion. Just ask the Hancock Bulldogs hockey team.
In a game that featured a little bit of everything from great goaltending, to missed nets, to breakaways, to power plays, the Calumet Copper Kings earned their biggest victory of the season with a 2-1 victory Monday night at the MacInnes Student Ice Arena, ending the Bulldogs’ run at defending their title from last season.
For Calumet captain Rory Anderson, who scored the game-winning goal in the second period, there was no better feeling than eliminating the Bulldogs as a senior.
“Every playoff win is huge,” said Anderson. “Hancock, they are a great team. It’s always fun playing against them. Getting a win against them is big.”
Anderson found space with the Copper Kings on an extended two-man advantage and he put a shot in what appeared to be a three-inch gap over Hancock goaltender Dawson Kero’s glove at 11 minutes, 58 seconds of the second period.
Copper Kings coach Dan Giachino was impressed by the efforts of both teams throughout the night.
“I thought it was exactly what I expected,” said Giachino. “[It was a] tight game, lots of scoring chances on both ends. Both goaltenders battled it out. Fortunately, we were on the right side of the stick there.”
The Bulldogs played without their two senior defensive leaders in Tommy Randell and Tanner Givens, but coach Dan Rouleau refused to use that as an excuse for the loss.
“We have a great group of seniors,” said Rouleau. “They deserved a good run this year. We never used the man games we lost as an excuse this year. My guys stepped up and played their guts out.
“I could not ask for a better group of guys. Every day, these guys make it a joy for me to come to the rink, and they help forget everything else I was thinking about that day.”
The difference in the game was the play of junior goaltender Nick Voelker for Calumet. After a solid regular season in which he was not pressured after the first four games the way he was on Monday, the effort he gave was nothing short of incredible.
Voelker was peppered for 15 shots in the first period despite the fact that the Copper Kings had two power plays in the period to none for Hancock. He stood his ground, especially four minutes in when Bulldogs sophomore Alex Nordstrom found senior Lance Kangas crashing the net behind the Calumet defense. Voelker then stuffed Hancock senior Bryan Lepisto two minutes later on a wraparound.
“I can’t say enough good things about the way [Nick] played,” said Giachino. “Rebound control was fantastic. He was soaking up a lot of pucks, especially in the first period. He controlled rebounds. Clearly his best game of the year.”
Looking to build off of that strong first period, the Bulldogs again came out hard to start the second period and were quickly rewarded when junior Jakob Vettori let loose a bomb from the blue line that Voelker never saw for his second goal of the season, and his second against the Copper Kings just 2:42 in.
“From the beginning of the year to now, he just improved, improved, improved,” said Rouleau of Vettori. “I just cannot say enough about him and his fellow juniors and sophomores.”
After the Hancock goal, Calumet struggled in their own end and gave up an odd-man rush to Nordstrom and captain Teddy Randell. The duo executed a quick give-and-go, with Randell finishing the play with a perfect pass to Nordstrom to unload on. Nordstrom pulled the trigger quickly, but his shot sailed past the post behind Voelker and away harmlessly.
Randell then had a chance at a wraparound a few minutes later when he knocked down Calumet senior Trevor Johnson behind the net, but Voelker slid over to make the stop.
That missed opportunity provided the doorway the Copper Kings needed to get back into the game and they took advantage.
After an attempted hand pass by a Copper Kings’ forward in the offensive zone, they had a faceoff to Voelker’s right. Getting control of the puck shortly after, senior Jack Sturos made a cross-ice pass to senior Izaak Avery in stride along the right boards. Avery carried the puck below the right dot in the offensive zone and placed a wrist shot in the only space he could see, above Kero’s glove, at 9:18.
The goal calmed the Copper Kings down, allowing them to focus on the task at hand.
“We were kind of running around after we got scored on,” said Giachino. “It just wasn’t looking particularly good. To get a goal out of your third line to give you that spark, that was huge.”
In the third period, the teams traded chances like two heavyweight fighters until the late stages of the period when the Bulldogs were awarded a power play. With Voelker on his back and sliding away from the play, they were unable to capitalize on the advantage.
With 41 seconds left, Rouleau pulled Kero and put Lepisto on the ice with the Bulldogs’ top unit. Lepisto responded by finding Randell in the slot with a clear look at Voelker with just 14 seconds left. Randell fired a hard wrist shot, but Voelker caught it in his chest and hung onto the puck for a whistle.
Calumet advances to play again on Wednesday. They will face the Jeffers Jets at 6 p.m.
Calumet 0 2 0 – 2
Hancock 0 1 0 – 1
1, HCH, Jakob Vettori (Bryan Lepisto, Colton Salani), 2:42
2, CHS, Izaak Avery (Jack Sturos), 9:18
3, CHS, Rory Anderson (Sturos), PP, 11:58
CHS, Voelker 15 8 8 – 31
HCH, Kero 10 13 10 – 33
CHS: 3/6; HCH: 5/10
CHS: 1/4; HCH: 0/2