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Gremlins, Bulldogs advance: Houghton scores four to beat Calumet Saturday

Houghton center Jack Sayen scores a goal against Calumet goaltender Hunter Tuoriniemi during their Division 3 Region 17 semifinal game Saturday at the MacInnes Student Ice Arena. (David Archambeau/For the Gazette)

HOUGHTON — Despite 31 saves from senior goaltender Hunter Tuoriniemi, the Calumet Copper Kings hockey team could not complete a comeback against the Houghton Gremlins in their Division 3 Region 17 semifinal matchup Saturday afternoon at the MacInnes Student Ice Arena.

Houghton got goals from four different scorers to earn a 4-1 win and advance to face the Hancock Bulldogs in the regional title game on Wednesday night.

The Gremlins dominated most of the first period from the opening faceoff, but despite firing shots from seemingly all over the offensive zone, they could not seem to buy a goal.

Things remained that way until a mistake cost the Copper Kings. Alternate captain Ted Loukus was whistled for a penalty with 2:05 left in the period. Houghton had several good looks before co-captain Michael Maillette finally broke through with a quick shot off a pass from below the goal line by sophomore winger Connor Arko. Sophomore center Jack Sayen fired the initial shot that Arko tracked down.

“It seems like we have to work so hard to get a goal,” said Gremlins coach Micah Stipech. “So, when you get it, you feel a sense of relief, but then sometimes, high school kids back off. That was big to get a lead.”

Calumet coach Dan Giachino mentioned how disappointing it was to give up that goal to Mailette, especially since his team had killed off most of the advantage before that point.

“Of course we kill off 1:45 of it or so, too,” he said. “That was an even harder pill to swallow, so to speak, as we killed off most of it.”

In the second period, the Copper Kings were much better, right up until junior defenseman Nels Loukus was whistled for a penalty at 10:16. It took Houghton 1:29 to strike again.

Senior winger Tanner Flachs, who had a chance earlier in the shift, got the puck again at the top of the right circle. This time, he placed his shot over Tuoriniemi’s glove and in at 11:45. The goal stood as the game-winner.

“They’re a very good hockey team, and we gave them two power play goals in the game,” said Giachino. “That was one of the things, one of the checkboxes, going into the game, is that we needed to stay out of the box. We did a good job staying out of the box, but they did a good job of taking advantage.”

Flachs, who moved to the Copper Country prior to the school year starting, had a conversation with his coach prior to the game, where the two reminisced about his first game in Orange and Black.

“I’m so happy for him,” Stipech said. “Just today we were talking on the way here, when we were leaving the Dee (Stadium) about his first game with us this year, where he had two goals. So, maybe that was some good luck.”

Calumet, needing a spark of any kind beyond the play of Tuoriniemi, got it in the final minute of the period. Sophomore defenseman Dylan Crouch picked up the puck off a faceoff to Tuoriniemi’s right, and quickly moved the puck to sophomore winger Luca Matous. Matous flew down the rink, drove to his left, and seemed to surprise Gremlins goaltender Bryant Lee with a backhand along the ice for a goal with just 24 seconds left.

Coming out to start the third period, the Gremlins gave the Copper Kings a golden opportunity to even things up when junior winger Jace DeForge was whistled for a penalty just 15 seconds in.

Calumet only had one quality scoring chance on the advantage, however, as alternate captain Brendan Boberg had a chance from the right circle.

The Copper Kings had a second power play chance a little over eight minutes later, but again, the Gremlins managed to kill it off.

“They had a big momentum (shift) with the goal and the power play, and I felt like they carried some momentum until the second power play,” Stipech said. “Then finally, we were aggressive and we got active.That second kill, I thought, gave us some momentum back.”

In between the two power plays, Houghton extended their lead to 3-1 when Sayen scored at 7:01. The Gremlins forced a turnover just inside Calumet’s blue line, and Flachs set up Sayen alone in the slot with a well-timed pass. Sayen lifted a shot over Tuoriniemi’s blocker shoulder and in.

“We kind of fumbled the puck there about four feet away from the blue line, when all we needed was just a little chip over the line, and we would have been fine,” said Giachino. “Mistakes happen.”

Houghton was able to ice the game at 14:54 as Giachino was pulling Tuoriniemi for an extra attacker. Junior defenseman Oscar Petersen got to the puck in his own end and cleared it out to the neutral zone. The puck caromed off the boards and skittered towards the empty Calumet net. Tuoriniemi realized what was happening, and he turned and raced back to the net, but the puck passed by him just beyond his reach and into the net.

Lee finished his night with 11 saves for the Gremlins.

UP NEXT

The Gremlins will face the Bulldogs on Wednesday night at 7 p.m. at the MacInnes Student Ice Arena with a spot in the state quarterfinals at Lakeview Arena in Marquette up for grabs.

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