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Holiday Classic: Calumet rallies, beats Houghton 3-2

Copper Kings’ come back from 2-0 deficit; 1st Holiday Classic crown since 2010

Calumet's Jackson Rilei (4) collides with Houghton goaltender Jimmy Pietila (1) during the championship game of the 45th annual John MacInnes Holiday Hockey Classic on Saturday, Dec. 28, 2019, in Houghton, Mich. (Adam Niemi/The Daily Mining Gazette)

HOUGHTON — For three high school hockey seasons, the No. 1 Calumet Copper Kings captain, Scott Loukus, has had to play in the shadow of his cousin, Brent, who graduated after the 2018-19 campaign.

For two years, Scott skated alongside Brent’s brother Dean, who has also shone in the spotlight.

With two goals, including the game-winner Saturday, Scott Loukus put himself firmly in the spotlight, lifting the Copper Kings to their first John MacInnes Holiday Classic tournament victory since 2010 with a 3-2 win over No. 3 Houghton at the John MacInnes Student Ice Arena.

It was not easy.

If not for the senior, who scored four goals on the weekend, it might not have happened at all. Scott Loukus was honored with the tournament’s Most Valuable Player for his efforts.

Calumet's Dean Loukus (12) wraps around the net for a shot as Houghton goaltender Jimmy Pietila (1) defends during the championship game of the 45th annual John MacInnes Holiday Hockey Classic on Saturday, Dec. 28, 2019, in Houghton, Mich. (Adam Niemi/The Daily Mining Gazette)

“He gives you 100 percent effort, whether it’s a Tuesday afternoon practice or a Saturday night game,” said Copper Kings coach Dan Giachino. “He gives you the same effort level and that’s why he’s improved over the last four years and has turned into being one of the better players, definitely the U.P. and probably within the state of Michigan.

“He’s just got a knack around the net. He’s hard-nosed. He gets to the dirty areas. When you have a fairly skilled team, you have to have those complement guys like that that go to those dirty areas. He’s our guy that’s able to do that for us.”

Loukus drove into the Gremlins zone with game tied 2-2 in the third period after he saw sophomore defenseman Tom Erkkila create a turnover at center ice. Erkkila crossed the Houghton blue line with the puck and then fed it over Loukus, who had time to pick his spot before beating goaltender Jimmy Pietila over the left shoulder with a shot at 8:17.

The Copper Kings had shutout the Gremlins earlier this season, 4-0. For head coach Corey Markham’s squad, a quick start was important. Houghton needed a span of just 1:19 in the first period to send Calumet reeling after 17 minutes of play.

The Gremlins struck first just 8:30 into the game on a play that started innocently enough before suddenly turning very dangerous. Senior forward Brandon Trudeau got the puck near his own blueline and skated through center ice, chipping it past a Calumet defender. Trudeau then drove around the defenseman, grabbed the puck and found himself alone with senior Alex Studebaker. Trudeau waited and then fired a wrist shot that beat the Calumet netminder.

Houghton's Brandon Norkol (12) shoots the puck at Calumet goaltender Alex Studebaker (30) during the championship game of the 45th annual John MacInnes Holiday Hockey Classic on Saturday, Dec. 28, 2019, in Houghton, Mich. (Adam Niemi/The Daily Mining Gazette)

Shortly after the first goal, the Gremlins drew a power play and took advantage on a bouncing shot from the right point. The Copper Kings attempted to clear the puck out while a pair of Gremlins forwards were skating back to the bench for a line change. Houghton junior defenseman Dane Johnson stepped in to knock down the clearing attempt and then just threw the puck at Studebaker. The puck bounced in front off of senior winger Tucker Tapani and found its way into the net at 9:49.

“We have strong goaltending and we compete hard, so we know we can play with them,” Markham said. “We got the lead that we needed, but we weren’t able to close out the deal.

“Credit to them for keeping playing and getting their opportunities and finishing.”

The Copper Kings were awarded a major power play early in the second period, but only had four minutes of the advantage to work with as they first had to kill off a penalty of their own. Once they did, they settled in, but it took two rotations through before their first unit found the back of the net.

Scott Loukus found himself some space in the high slot and after a shot from junior winger Tanner Rowe bounced to him, Loukus had two tries of his own, with the second finding daylight when Pietila slid a little too far across his crease. The goal was scored at 5:59 of the period and gave the Copper Kings another 34 seconds of major power play to work with.

Houghton goaltender Jimmy Pietila (1) makes a save in front of Calumet's Scott Loukus (11) during the championship game of the 45th annual John MacInnes Holiday Hockey Classic on Saturday, Dec. 28, 2019, in Houghton, Mich. (Adam Niemi/The Daily Mining Gazette)

While Calumet did not score on that advantage, they continued to push the pace of the game, and kept Houghton hemmed in their own end until Rowe found some space in the late stages to even things up.

Rowe jumped on the ice after a line change and drove hard to the Gremlins’ net. On his way to the crease, Erkkila fed a pass across and Rowe lifted the puck over the right shoulder of Pietila and under the crossbar at 13:52.

“It was just about fighting back and establishing ourselves in the offensive zone,” Giachino said. “We got that late goal there at the end of the second. Tanner put a nice shot in the upper corner and that was big for us to tie that thing up before the end of the period.”

The Copper Kings then held Gremlins offense at bay for the remainder of the contest. Houghton had just four shots on goal in the third period.

“We were fighting it that second period,” Markham said. “They were all over us. Thank god Jimmy was strong to keep it just 2-2 going into the third.

Houghton goaltender Jimmy Pietila (1) makes a save as Calumet's Scott Loukus (11) looks for a rebound during the championship game of the 45th annual John MacInnes Holiday Hockey Classic on Saturday, Dec. 28, 2019, in Houghton, Mich. (Adam Niemi/The Daily Mining Gazette)

“They didn’t have a ton of great quality chances in the third, but the one they did, they deposited. We didn’t create a lot of offensive in the third. We had (one) late, Brandon Norkol got the puck alone in front and ended up shoving it into him, but other than that, we didn’t have enough offense.”

Bulldogs third

Junior winger Austin Salani led the Hancock Bulldogs to a 6-1 win in the third place game. Salani scored a goal in each period and added an assist in the victory over the Jeffers Jets.

The Jets, who had seven shots in the contest, led at one point, 1-0, thanks to a goal from senior winger David Storm, but Salani evened things with a backhand shot and Hancock never looked back.

All-tournament team

Studebaker, Erkkila, Rowe and senior defenseman Lincoln Beiring all made the all-tournament team from Calumet. Salani and Tapani were also named to the team.

Calumet 0 2 1 — 3

Calumet's Scott Loukus (11) celebrates his goal with teammates Tom Erkkila (8), Peter Larson (9) and Lincoln Beiring (3) in the third period of the championship game of the 45th annual John MacInnes Holiday Hockey Classic on Saturday, Dec. 28, 2019, in Houghton, Mich. (Adam Niemi/The Daily Mining Gazette)

Houghton 2 0 0 — 2

First Period–1, Hou, Trudeau, 8:30. 2, Hou, Tapani (Johnson), 9:49, pp.

Second Period–3, Cal, S. Loukus (T. Rowe), 5:56, pp. 4, Cal, T. Rowe (Erkkila, Beiring), 13:52.

Third Period–5, Cal, S. Loukus (Erkkila), 8:17.

Saves–Cal, Studebaker, 7-7-4–18. Hou, Pietila, 17-11-6–34

Power-play Opportunities–Cal 1 of 3. Hou 1 of 4

Penalties-minutes–Cal 5-10; Hou 3-9

Calumet's Scott Loukus (11) celebrates his goal with teammates in the third period against Houghton during the championship game of the 45th annual John MacInnes Holiday Hockey Classic on Saturday, Dec. 28, 2019, in Houghton, Mich. (Adam Niemi/The Daily Mining Gazette)

Calumet's Scott Loukus (11) celebrates his goal in the second period against Houghton during the championship game of the 45th annual John MacInnes Holiday Hockey Classic on Saturday, Dec. 28, 2019, in Houghton, Mich. (Adam Niemi/The Daily Mining Gazette)

Calumet's Tanner Rowe (5) shoots against Houghton during the championship game of the 45th annual John MacInnes Holiday Hockey Classic on Saturday, Dec. 28, 2019, in Houghton, Mich. (Adam Niemi/The Daily Mining Gazette)

Calumet's Scott Loukus (11) and Alex Studebaker (30) celebrate after defeating Houghton 3-2 to win the championship game of the 45th annual John MacInnes Holiday Hockey Classic on Saturday, Dec. 28, 2019, in Houghton, Mich. It was Calumet's first time winning the tournament since 2010. (Adam Niemi/The Daily Mining Gazette)

The Calumet High School hockey team poses with the championship trophy after defeating Houghton 3-2 in the championship game of the 45th annual John MacInnes Holiday Hockey Classic on Saturday, Dec. 28, 2019, in Houghton, Mich. It was Calumet's first time winning the tournament since 2010. (Adam Niemi/The Daily Mining Gazette)

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