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Coming into Tuesday night having won eight of their last nine hockey games, the Hancock Bulldogs rode a wave of confidence into their final regular season matchup with the D3 No. 1 Calumet Copper Kings.
The Bulldogs struck first, but could not sustain any momentum they created throughout the night in a 9-5 loss at the Houghton County Arena.
Copper Kings coach Dan Giachino was happy to see his team head into this weekend’s MIHL Showcase in Trenton with a win, but was not pleased with the fact that his team surrendered five goals to Hancock.
“(It was an) odd hockey game tonight,” Giachino said. “We had some sections of the game where I thought we played really well. We moved the puck well. We created scoring chances and we played well defensively. Then we would go through periods of time where it kind of looked like we were just, we weren’t picking up guys. We’re given up odd man rushes.
“I guess, the best way to describe it, it’s almost like a light switch tonight. Things were either really on, or they were really off.”
Hancock's Austin Salani (4) scores on Calumet goaltender Alex Studebaker (30) on Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2020, in Hancock, Mich. (Adam Niemi/The Daily Mining Gazette)
The Bulldogs pressured the Copper Kings from the drop of the puck and their hard work paid off just over four minutes into the contest when junior winger Austin Salani stole a clearing pass in the high slot, skated in close to Copper Kings goaltender Alex Studebaker before deking to his backhand and potting a goal at 4:20.
Salani’s tally was the first goal by the Bulldogs against the Copper Kings (16-1-1, 8-0-0 GLHC) this season.
“You’re not going to hold Calumet to zero or one goals,” said Bulldogs coach Dan Rouleau. “There’s just too many weapons on a team. It was nice to get the lead, but when you’re playing the No. 1 team in the state, you’ve got to get more than a one-goal lead.”
The Copper Kings answered back just 1:08 later when captain Scott Loukus stole a pass in the high slot, drove to the net, fired a shot and then got to his own rebound.
Just 1:05 after that, Calumet struck a second time by taking advantage of a bad matchup on the ice for the Bulldogs (9-10-0, 3-6-0 GLHC). The Copper Kings’ top line of Scott Loukus, assistant captain Dean Loukus and senior Peter Larson found themselves on the ice against Hancock’s third line. A quick breakout later, Dean drove hard to the slot and beat Bulldogs netminder Isaak Pietila with a wrist shot.
The two quick goals were what Calumet needed after giving up the first goal of the night.
“To answer those that first their first quick goal was definitely big for us to get our feet going,” Giachino said.
About four minutes later, Austin Salani found space behind the Calumet defense. Driving hard to the net with a defender hot on his tail, Salani looked up, decided not to shoot, but rather deke, and his move to his forehand was stopped by Studebaker.
Three and a half minutes later, senior winger Alex Mattila had a golden opportunity from the slot for Calumet, but his wrist shot, which beat Pietila, hit the post to Pietila’s left and caromed away.
The Bulldogs were awarded a late first period power play. While it could have been a chance for Hancock to get even. Unfortunately for the hosts, not only did they not score, Calumet scored 28 seconds after killing the penalty off.
Scott Loukus got a shot off to Pietila’s left that snuck through the Hancock goaltender. Dean Loukus jumped on the puck and knocked it home before any Bulldogs could react to the play at 1:07.
Hancock cut the lead back to one less than a minute later. Junior defenseman Bradley Randell attempted to feed the puck up the ice to co-captain Petr Anderson, but the pass was out of reach. Studebaker strayed from his net, and misplayed the puck. Anderson was able to track down the puck and deposit it in the net at 1:54.
Scott Loukus regained the two-goal advantage for the Copper Kings at 7:18 when he took a pass on the back door from Dean Loukus and buried a quick shot.
From there, things went from bad to worse for the Bulldogs as Calumet added three more tallies in the last two minutes of the second, pushing their advantage to five, 7-2. Junior winger Tanner Rowe got the first as the Copper Kings executed a two-pass 3-on-1 that ended with senior winger Gabe Coppo feeding Rowe in the high slot.
Mattila scored the next Calumet goal when he threw puck back out front from the left corner that hit Pietila and bounced in at 15:24. Scott Loukus scored the third goal when he beat Pietila with a wrist shot from low in the left circle.
The rough stretch was not what the Bulldogs needed after cutting the lead to one goal.
“You rely on your goaltender, no doubt,” Rouleau said, “but, we need to play good in front of them too. We’ve got to avoid those shots in the slot that are going under the bar.”
Junior winger Mason Mikesch potted two goals for the Bulldogs in the third period, the first coming on a 2-on-1 with Austin Salani just a minute into the period. The second came on the power play just 1:40 later when he set up on the back door and buried a quick shot off a pass from co-captain Colton Salani.
Coppo responded to Mikesch’s first tally with one of his own just 10 seconds later.
Sophomore defenseman Chad Nordstrom, who assisted on Mikesch’s second goal, got one of his own with 2:23 remaining.
Dean Loukus capped off a four-point night with a hat trick goal just 23 seconds after Nordstrom’s tally, again giving the Copper Kings a four-goal lead to close out the contest.
Calumet 2 5 2 — 9
Hancock 1 1 3 — 5
First Period–1, HCH, A. Salani, 4:20. 2, CHS, S. Loukus, 5:28. 3, CHS, D. Loukus (S. Loukus, Kauppinen), 6:33.
Second Period–4, CHS, D. Loukus (S. Loukus), 1:07. 5, HCH, P. Anderson, 1:54. 6, CHS, S. Loukus (D. Loukus), 7:18.
7, CHS, T. Rowe (G. Coppo, Beiring), 14:02. 8, CHS, Mattila (D. Loukus), 15:24. 9, CHS, S. Loukus, 15:58.
Third Period–10, HCH, Mikesch (A. Salani), 1:00. 11, CHS, G. Coppo (Rowe, Erkkila), 1:10. 12, HCH, Mikesch (C. Salani, Nordstrom), 2:40, pp. 13, HCH, Nordstrom (T. Anderson), 14:37. 14, CHS, D. Loukus (Erkkila), 14:50.
Saves–CHS, Studebaker 12-12-7–31. HCH, I. Pietila 8-4-0–12. B. Pietila 0-0-7–7
Power play Opportunities–CHS 0 of 0. HCH 1 of 2.
Penalties-minutes–CHS 3-6; HCH 2-12