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Just 10 nights ago, the Houghton Gremlins and the Calumet Copper Kings faced off at the Dee Stadium with the Copper Kings overcoming a pair goals from the Gremlins in order to earn a victory, 5-2.
Thursday, the two teams met again in the second semifinal game of the John MacInnes Holiday Classic. This time, it was the Gremlins who would emerge victorious, 4-2, at the MacInnes Student Ice Arena on the strength of a first period that saw Houghton strike three times, including two from Brad Gauthier, who ended his night with a hat trick.
Calumet struck first, just 31 seconds into the contest, giving the group from the north end and their fans plenty of reason to think that another win was well in hand. Scott Loukus was the recipient of a pass from Brent Loukus, and he made sure to bury a shot past Houghton goaltender Jimmy Pietila.
From there, Gauthier went to work.
He evened things at the 13:40 mark off a shots from defenseman Ty Halonen. Gauthier tipped Halonen’s shot from the left side past Calumet goaltender Alex Studebaker.
Gauthier’s second came just 10 seconds after captain Kevin Bostwick had given the Gremlins their first lead of the night at 16:13. Gauthier again crashed the net and redirected a pass from Erickson past Studebaker to give Houghton a lead they would not relinquish.
“It was huge,” Gremlins coach Corey Markham said. “We got a lucky break. Very seldom does a puck bounce like that did and then to come right back and score 10 seconds later, ultimately that’s the ball game right there. That got us to three goats. We only gave up two, so that was huge; the turning point in the game.”
Gauthier then added an insurance tally at the 14:54 mark of the third with a shot from the right side of the ice off a feed from P.J. Donnelly to ice the game.
Markham saw his team pull together in a big way. Highlighting his senior leadership, Markham felt Gauthier demonstrated it throughout the night.
“He had a few bad turnovers, but he did a great job in position,” said Markham. Two of his goals were defelections. He scored the third goal.
“He’s one of our seniors. We needed him to score. It was a big game for him to get a hat trick.”
Markham was pleased with the efforts of his entire team in the second period to make that two-goal advantage stand.
“I thought in the second period we did a good job of defending,” said Markham. “We didn’t give a lot of chances. We finally had a power play and we hit the post. (That) would’ve been huge at the time, but I thought the biggest key to the game was (the play of) Jimmy Pietila. He was sharp and controlling rebounds.
“(In the) third period, we held on and played defensive, but it was just a good team win for us.”
Copper Kings coach Dan Giachino thought motivation and attention to detail is what cost his team the game despite scoring the early opening goal.
“In the first period, we scored an early goal and I think we just thought we were going to come out here and win this hockey game without having to work for it,” he said. “That certainly wasn’t the case.
“I thought we played a lackluster, uninspired performance for a good chunk of the hockey game. We absolutely got what we deserved here today. They outworked (and) outhustled us. They did all the little things that you need to do in a hockey game to win.”
Dean Loukus did cut the Gremlins’ lead to one at the 8:35 of the third off a feed from Sam Erikkila, but that was the only one of 18 shots to get past Pietila in the final frame.
“We gave up three goals in three minutes,” Giachino said. “It was a bad bounce on the second goal, but then to come back out and give them another goal in the next shift isn’t mentally tough hockey.
“We can’t play that way. You can’t give them two easy goals within a minute and expect to win the hockey game.”
The Copper Kings will take on Hancock in the Consolation Game at 6 p.m. Friday. The Gremlins will face Howell in the Championship at 8 p.m.
Calumet 1 0 1 – 2
Houghton 3 0 1 – 4
1, CLK, Scott Loukus (Brent Loukus), 0:31
2, HHS, Brad Gauthier (Ty Halonen),13:40
3, HHS, Kevin Bostwick 16:13
4, HHS, Brad Gauthier (Brendan Erickson), 16:23
5, CLK, Dean Loukus (Sam Erkkia) 8:35
6, HHS, Brad Gauthier (P.J. Donnelly, Ty Halonen), 14:54
CLK, Studebaker 8 12 6 – 26
HHS, Pietila 7 13 17 – 33
CLK: 0/2; HHS: 0/1
CLK: 1/2; HHS: 2/4