Love of game moves these Oldtimers

HANCOCK – They have roughly 180 years of hockey experience between them, but Harold Filpus, Don Juntunen, Joe Geborkoff and Jim Morin don’t figure to slow down in the foreseeable future.

In fact, the four “graybeards” will be playing in the Copper Country Oldtimers Hockey Tournament this weekend in the Over 60 Division.

“They have a lot of years of hockey between them,” Oldtimers spokesman and player Paul Bianucci said. “But they still enjoy the game … otherwise they wouldn’t still be out here.”

At 75, Filpus is the elder statesman, but Juntunen, 74, Geborkoff, 73, and Morin, 70, aren’t far behind.

The four were taking their turns on a recent afternoon at the Houghton County Arena. They play twice a week at the HCA in a rental league that was formed more than 30 years ago by the late Merv Klemett.

“Merv was the guy who organized things,” Bianucci said. “He set up the playing times and we eventually put to together a couple of teams.”

There’s no checking or slap shots allowed in the senior division, but occasionally a player will forget and let loose a hard shot.

“It’s more out of habit than anything else,” Juntunen said.

Filpus began his love of hockey on frozen ponds in his hometown area of Tapiola. Unlike the other three, he never participated in an organized league until he began playing 33 years ago.

The Saints spread out their offense to draw Forest Park into man coverage in the third.

“I felt more confident for our kids to be able to dribble drive, and against man, it’s a lot easier to dish it for easier ones,” Ingalls said.

Culllip, Brown and Wright all came up with treys during the Saints’ push late in the third quarter to quickly quell the Trojans’ surge. But overall it was quick buckets off turnovers that carried St. Ignace to its ever-expanding lead throughout the game.

“You have to keep hustling,” Ingalls said. “I thought our kids really played their hearts out and kept working, kept working, kept working.”

Gussert’s first three-pointer of the night gave Forest Park its last lead at 16-15 with less than a minute to go in the first quarter. But a quick layup by Cullip followed by two free throws from Brown on a foul at the buzzer allowed St. Ignace to grab the lead heading into the second.

Forest Park struggled most against St. Ignace’s pressure in the second frame, not getting back on the scoreboard until the 3:55 mark. By then, the Saints had opened a 10-point lead for the first time in the contest. Gussert, mostly double-teamed, did not score in the second, opting to dump off to the open shooters, and went into halftime with just seven points.

As the game wore on, St. Ignace’s freshness took its toll on the Trojans. Utilizing a deeper rotation than the Trojans, the Saints were able to maintain the pace of their relentless attack.

“We’ve got little, I call them ankle-biters, to come in and just kind of create havoc,” Ingalls said of her bench. “You’ve got to be ready to go when your number is called, and I thought they were.”

“We were wondering if they had six people on the floor, because that’s what it seemed like,” Syrjanen said. “We’ll be way more prepared for that kind of pressure in the future. Our young guards got better in the second half.

“They’re just a good team. It’s not that we screwed up, it’s just that we got beat by a better team tonight. We haven’t seen anybody that fast. They’re quick and they’re relentless. They just keep on you, and keep on you and keep on you.”

While the Trojans do have to say goodbye to two seniors in Gina Graff and Ronnie Jaeger, the rest of the squad returns next season. In fact, Tuesday’s game had a total of just four seniors on both sides combined. If the Saints remain in Class D, a quarterfinal rematch wouldn’t be out of the question.

“We’re a young team,” Gussert said. “We have a freshman guard who did great out there. We all turned it over tonight because their pressure was so tough. But we’re young and we’re only going to get better. The second half showed what we can become. The future is bright for us.”

Forest Park finished the season 23-2.

“We’re proud of our season,” Syrjanen said. “Did we want to go to Breslin? Heck yeah, we were ready to go. But not many teams get this far, and we’re proud of it.”

St. Ignace faces Climax-Scotts (21-5) in a semifinal Thursday at MSU’s Breslin Center. Athens (22-3) and Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes (20-4) battle in the other semifinal. The championship game is Saturday.