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Gremlins fight back to earn road tie against Copper Kings

Calumet sophomore goaltender Aksel Loukus (1) makes a save on Houghton junior forward Camden Markham (9) on Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021 in Calumet, Mich. (Adam Niemi/The Daily Mining Gazette)

CALUMET — Like a pair of prize fighters, the D3 No. 3 Calumet Copper Kings and D3 No. 4 Houghton Gremlins hockey teams traded goals, chances, key saves, and even extra time, to skate to a 3-3 tie Tuesday evening at the Calumet Colosseum.

With his team trailing 3-2 heading into the third period, Gremlins coach Corey Markham saw his team storm out of the locker room and draw first a power play and then a goal less than a minute later to even things and set an exciting period in motion.

His son, Camden, found the back of the net just 53 seconds in when his backhand pass towards the slot hit a Calumet defender and bounced past sophomore goaltender Aksel Loukus.

“The third was huge, obviously, coming off a lackluster second period of ours where they controlled the majority of the play,” said Corey Markham. “I thought the kids responded really well. We had a tremendous third period, getting the power play and then scoring on that to tie it up.”

Twice on the night the Copper Kings scored a goal to either take or extend a lead, and within two minutes, the Gremlins stormed back with a goal of their own, making sure that Calumet could never really get comfortable with their advantage.

“That’s frustrating, and that’s it’s a little bit deflating,” said Copper Kings coach Dan Giachino. “It takes away that energy and the momentum that you get from scoring.

“They’re a hard-working, gritty hockey team. They certainly didn’t give up. Part of the game (is) you (have) to learn how to deal with that as a hockey team.”

With the season still so young, Corey Markham likes how his team is showing resiliency by finding ways to punch back when they get knocked down.

“We’ve done it twice now,” he said. “We did it in Hancock. They opened the scoring in Hancock and within a minute, we came back and tied it up at one. So that’s kind of our M.O. so far this season. Whenever you can take away that momentum as quickly as possible and try and turn it back to your favor is huge. So both times we score, answering their score. It was huge for our team.”

Giachino was pleased with several stretches of his team’s play with good reason, they found ways to hem the Gremlins in their own end for multiple shifts at a time.

“Both teams, I thought, worked really hard,” Giachino said. “I thought there were periods of the game where we took over, and I thought there were periods of the game where they took over. I think the score and the shots and all those types of things were very indicative of what the game was. It was a pretty even hockey game.”

The Copper Kings struck first just 5:13 into the contest when a scrum behind the Gremlins net saw three Houghton players engaged below the goal line. Seeing space in the slot, junior winger Jackson Rilei made himself available for a pass from junior winger Nolan Sturos before burying a quick shot. Captain Dean Loukus also assisted on the tally.

Houghton found the equalizer just 1:42 later when junior defenseman Ryan Vlahos blasted a shot from the left circle past Aksel Loukus.

The two teams continued to battle back-and-forth and finished the first period with eight shots and one goal each.

Wanting to catch the Gremlins (3-0-1, 3-0-1 GLHC) quickly in the second, the Copper Kings (3-0-1, 3-0-1 GLHC) nearly found the back of the net just over two minutes in when Rilei stole the puck from senior goaltender Jimmy Pietila behind his net. Fortunately for the Gremlins, Pietila, who stopped 30 shots on the night, got back into position to make the save when Rilei attempted to stuff it home.

A little more than two minutes later, the Copper Kings did find the net when senior winger Carson Kariniemi tipped a shot from senior defenseman Zach Larson past Pietila at 4:43.

“Those guys came off and they’re fired up,” said Giachino. “Those are the goals you need to get. You need to pick up a goal like that from your third line. If those guys keep playing like they did and give us some good offensive shifts, we’re gonna be much better off for it.”

The Copper Kings kept the pressure on and were nearly rewarded multiple times including what appeared to be a goal at 6:18. However, the goal was called back when it was determined that the puck was batted down first with a high stick.

Early in the second half of the period, the Gremlins found themselves with a golden opportunity to even the game on the power play, but instead, it was Dean Loukus who took advantage of a miscue at the blue line. He skated in alone from the red line and beat Pietila with a deke at 9:25.

The Gremlins gathered themselves up and got back to work on the man advantage. Just 40 seconds later, they responded when senior winger Brandon Norkol batted a rebound past Aksel Loukus at 10:05.

The Copper Kings have little time to digest the tie as they are back in action at 6 p.m. Thursday with a game at home against Kingsford. The Gremlins are in the same boat as they host Marquette at 7 p.m. Thursday at Dee Stadium.

HHS 1 1 1 0 — 3

CHS 1 2 0 0 — 3

First Period — Scoring — 1, CHS, Rilei (Sturos, D. Loukus), 5:13. 2, HHS, Vlahos (Johnson, Miller), 6:55.

Second Period — Scoring — 3, CHS, Kariniemi (Larson), 4:43. 4, CHS, D. Loukus (A. Loukus), 9:25, sh. 5, HHS, Erva (Norkol), 10:05, pp.

Third Period — Scoring — 6, HHS, Markham (Halonen), :53, pp.

Saves — HHS, Pietila, 7-11-8-4–30 saves. CHS, Loukas, 7-8-16-5–31

Power play Opportunities — HHS 2 of 4. CHS 0 of 4.

Penalties-minutes — HHS 4-8. CHS 4-8.

Bulldogs shut out Redmen, 2-0

MARQUETTE — With two second-period tallies, the visiting Hancock Bulldogs hockey team earned a 2-0 road win over the Marquette Redmen at Lakeview Arena in Marquette.

Defenseman Brandon LaVigne broke the scoreless tie at 9:51. Austin Salani picked up an assist on what stood as the game-winner.

Salani chipped one of his own with just 43 seconds left in the period, unassisted, to extend the Bulldogs’ lead to two.

From there, Brandon Pietila shut the door on the Redmen. He made 19 saves to earn the shutout.

With the win, the Bulldogs improved to 3-1 on the season.

They return to action at 7 p.m. Friday against Escanaba at the Houghton County Arena.

HCHS 0 2 0 — 2

MHS 0 0 0 — 0

Second Period — Scoring — 1, HCHS, LaVigne (Salani), 9:51. 2, HCHS, Salani, 16:17.

Saves — HCHS, Pietila, 9-5-5–19 saves. MHS, Hakkola, 5-9-3–17.

Power-play Opportunities — HCHS 0 of 5. MHS 0 of 2.

Penalties-minutes — HCH 2-4. MHS 5-10.

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