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Copper Kings hold off Bulldogs to seal Copper Island Classic win

Hancock’s Todd Anderson, left, skates with the puck against Calumet on Friday, Feb. 26, 2021, in Hancock Mich. (Eddie O’Neill/The Daily Mining Gazette)

CALUMET — For the third straight season, the Calumet Copper Kings hockey team is the winner of the John H. Sharf Trophy after defeating the Hancock Bulldogs 4-1 Saturday night to win the Copper Island Classic.

The Copper Kings defeated the Bulldogs 4-2 on Friday in Hancock. Dean Loukus scored twice to lead Calumet.

For fans of both teams, Saturday’s game at the Calumet Colosseum was more nail-biting than either group wanted.

After being held off the scoresheet for nearly half the contest, and with the score deadlocked at 1-1, Copper Kings captain Dean Loukus changed the course of events by tipping home a shot from assistant captain Tom Erkkila at 7:41 of the second period.

Calumet head coach Dan Giachino was pleased with how Dean Loukus found ways to drive the team to the win.

“He’s our driving force of our offense right now,” Giachino said. “He’s playing exceptionally well. He’s bringing it every game, it doesn’t matter who we’re playing against. He’s been the best, or one of the best, players on the ice every game. 

“That’s the leadership we needed out of them. He’s been a positive leader in the locker room and on the bench and just been very good so far.”

From there, the veteran added two assists in the third period to seal the win. Bulldogs head coach Scott Mikesch was pleased with how well his team contained Dean Loukus’ line, despite his three points.

“He’s gonna get his points, it’s one of those things,” said Mikesch. “I thought we did a good job of not making it easy for him. We were harder on him and checked him well.”

The Copper Kings (9-0-1, 8-0-1 GLHC) won the Friday night matchup between the two schools 4-2. Mikesch felt like his team struggled to engage in the contest. Saturday, his team held the Copper Kings to just three shots in the first period and 15 over the course of the night. Where he really made a difference was on the penalty kill, as the Copper Kings held the Bulldogs to 1 for 5 on the night.

Dean Loukus was not the only Loukus to have a strong night on the scoresheet for the Copper Kings. Sophomore goaltender Aksel was equal to the task from the drop of the puck to start the night. He made eight of his 26 saves in the first period.

The Copper Kings took the lead just 1:34 into the contest when Erkkila scored on the team’s first shot. He carried the puck from his own end down the left boards before surprising Bulldogs goaltender Brandon Pieitila over the shoulder with a wrist shot.

Hancock responded on the power play at 5:16 when assistant captain Todd Anderson converted a pass from co-captain Austin Salani into a one-timer that found a hole in Aksel Loukus.

The teams went into the third period with the Copper Kings leading 2-1 and having nearly a minute left on the power play. After nearly scoring twice late in the second, they did just 38 seconds into the third. 

Junior Nolan Sturos converted a pass from Dean Loukus into a quick shot that beat Pietila for the goal. The tally proved to be what the Copper Kings needed to take control of the contest.

With a late power play, the Bulldogs (6-3-0, 5-3-0) pulled Pietila for a two-man advantage. They were unable to find the back of the net. Instead senior defenseman Zach Larson one-timed a pass from Dean Loukus into the Bulldogs’ net less than a second before the final buzzer to seal the victory.

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