Wolverines claim Gibson Cup for the first time in 10 years with 7-2 win over Portage Lake

Calumet Wolverines coach Bruce Coppo holds up the Gibson Cup as his players celebrate their 7-2 victory over Portage Lake, Friday at Dee Stadium. This is Calumet’s first time winning the cup in 10 years. (Daily Mining Gazette/Eden Laase)

HOUGHTON — Jeff Erkkila stood on the edge of the ice, taking it all in. The Calumet Wolverines captain had waited a long time for this moment. Behind him teammates took photos and hugged family members, and Erkkila smiled as the celebration began.

Erkkila has played for Calumet for 12 years, and now he is one of the older players on the team. His dark locks are peppered with gray hairs — some of which surely came from the stress of trying, and failing to win the Gibson Cup for 10 years.

But the captain will sprout no more grays at the hands of Portage Lake this season, as his Wolverines snapped a 10-year losing streak, claiming the Gibson Cup with a 7-2 win in game three on Friday at Dee Stadium.

“When we were playing well this season some of the boys were saying it was our year,” Erkkila said. “It feels incredible.”

He was a big reason for the win, too. Erkkila netted a hat trick in the game, scoring once in each period.

The first came after Portage Lake had taken a quick, 1-0 lead with 3:52 gone by in the opening period. Erkkila evened the score, and the Wolverines piled on the goals in the second frame, leading the Pioneers 5-1 going into the second intermission.

“I think the determination of the guys to win was a big factor.” Calumet coach Bruce Coppo said of the big period.

After the second frame it was mostly a waiting game for the Wolverines. Waiting until the clock ran out. Waiting to hoist the Cup once more. Waiting for 10 long years to be over.

“I feel great for the guys that were here through the drought,” Coppo said. “We struggled for years and we didn’t have a very good team. But we picked up some players and I think we had a great team, a great year.”

The Wolverines dominated Portage Lake all season, but after Calumet took a 1-0 lead in the Gibson Cup series last Friday, the Pioneers took the second game with a win on Wolverine ice, the next night at the Calumet Colosseum.

“Last weekend I thought we played a little sluggish,” Coppo said. “We got a little refreshed this week with a couple of practices to work on stuff and it worked out beautiful.

“We worked on forechecking, sticks in the lane, stuff like that. Making sure we had a guy up high so we had a back checker. It worked to perfection this weekend.”

The Dee was packed to the brim with fans, some with steaming cups of coffee in their hands, others with ice cold beer. Whatever their beverage of choice, the spectators all saw the same thing on the ice: A dominating performance by Calumet.

After allowing Portage Lake to tie up the series, the Wolverines reset their minds with a few high-quality practices and claimed the Cup in convincing fashion.

No longer do the Wolverines have to end a season wondering when they will finally win the Gibson Cup.

Instead, there is only one unanswered question.

What do you do to celebrate snapping a 10 year drought?

“I can’t tell you that,” Coppo said with a sly smile.

The Wolverines have waited a decade for this celebration, so whatever they do, it’s sure to be good.