Unbelievable: Seven-goal first period puts Gremlins in final

HOUGHTON – With the Houghton hockey team blazing to a 7-2 first period lead over Calumet Thursday night, including a first frame hat trick from Connor Hannon (along with two assists), the Copper Country faithful who packed the John MacInnes Student Ice Arena expecting a tense, tight affair were left with just one question.

What the heck just happened?

These were two teams who split four games in the regular season, after all – including two straight wins by Calumet – and seven goals total over three full periods would have been considered an offensive game, much less seven tallies in the first 15:35 of ice time.

Even the teams on the ice weren’t quite sure what occurred as the Gremlins closed out the Copper Kings with an 8-3 victory to advance to the Division 3 regional finals with Hancock Saturday night.

“It is really hard to explain. In a huge game like this, you don’t expect that to happen ever,” Houghton coach Corey Markham said. “I am as shocked as anyone to put seven on the board in the first period. In a game like this you just don’t see that.

“You really can’t explain it.”

“We thought it was going to be more of a defensive battle, maybe a 3-2 game,” Hannon added. “Just getting pucks to the net was the key to success tonight because we got every bounce to go our way. but they say you make your own luck and that is what happened.”

“That was just strange. I’ve never seen it go like that,” Calumet coach Jim Crawford chipped in. “Everything was going their way and that was the way it was going to go. Obviously the defense and goaltending wasn’t there for us today.”

It started on the first shift.

After winning the zone on the opening faceoff, Gremlins sophomore Jon Bostwick was allowed to walk in close to Kings goaltender Troy Pierce, initiating a scrum in front of the net that ended with Hannon poking in a rebound just 18 seconds into the contest.

Junior Jed Kallio scored less than two minutes later in similar fashion as a speedy individual rush from Ray Brice created a juicy rebound for Kallio to slap home.

“We came out really hard, we came out flying,” Markham said. “We stressed getting pucks to the net and we were beating their defense to those rebounds. Just an impressive start.”

Brendan Jacques got one back for Calumet with a superior snipe to take advantage of a power play but the goal did nothing to deflate Houghton’s fiery energy.

Hannon tallied his second of the night 7:21 into the period on a diving effort to reach a sublime backdoor pass from Bostwick. Brice got his first of the night 50 seconds later and Pierce’s night (10 shots, six saves) was done.

“I saw the puck there and I kind of just dove for it and it ended up in the back of the net,” Hannon said. “(Bostwick) is a great player. He has the nastiest hands on the team, he moves the puck well. I love playing with him.”

“Even after they scored and made it 2-1 and you are holding your breath a little bit we just kept going and kept getting pucks to the net,” Markham added. “We had great pressure and great skating. The guys were just flying.”

It started roughly for Kings backup Brian Rogers as senior defenseman Davis Farrey put a slap shot on the senior netminder that he couldn’t quite get the handle on and Casey Markham was there to slot home the rebound just 11 seconds after Rogers’ appearance.

Markham added his second score of the night several minutes later and then Hannon one-timed a Markham pass to give the junior a hat trick just over 15 minutes into the game.

When the heads stopped spinning and the first period finally came to an end, Houghton had put 25 shots on net to firmly seize control for a chance at repeating its regional victory from last year.

“Coming off last year going down to State, the feeling of that was just unreal and we are trying to get the younger guys to realize that. We got a big push from the older guys and the younger guys stepped up and played hard tonight,” Hannon said.

“I would never ever have thought that – ever. I only have one (other) hat trick and it took a full three periods,” Hannon added of his first period hat trick.

In attempting to explain the first period – something he admittedly struggled to do – Markham highlighted the two straight losses at the hands of the Kings as the primary motivating factor that pushed the Gremlins from good to seven-goal great.

“Those were losses that we did not forget,” Markham said. “I don’t know if we would have had the same energy coming out if we had beaten them all four times this year. Knowing that they had beaten us like that, we definitely came in a with a lot of energy and drive.”

The region will be decided at the MacInnes at 7 p.m. Saturday.

“We are going to live it up tonight, but then get some rest and be ready for practice,” Hannon said. “We have to be ready for Hancock, they are a solid team. We only beat them (by one) last time so we have to start the same way.”