Wolverines force Gibson Game 3

HOUGHTON -Now, that is what a Gibson Cup rivalry game should look like.

Friday night at Dee Stadium, a rowdy Copper Country crowd was treated to 13 combined goals between the Calumet Wolverines and Portage Lake Pioneers, a controversially waved-off overtime winner, 25 total penalty minutes and a three-goal comeback in the final three minutes of regulation by the eventual losing team.

And despite getting outshot 52-25, the Wolverines forced a game three tonight at the Dee to decide the Cup when Emmett Bjorn tapped in the game-winner from a crisp Jeff Erkkila pass just over five minutes into an overtime the Pioneers had thoroughly controlled.

“This series just brings out wild games, every year,” Calumet forward Mike Babcock, who led the Wolverines with a goal and two primary assists, said. “Last year it was down to the wire and there was a goal that was just as questionable as the things that happened tonight.”

“I will take that present all day,” Babcock, celebrating his birthday, added of the 7-6 victory.

With under three minutes to go in the third period, Calumet looked to be cruising to an easy finish with a three-goal lead.

Pioneers forward Charlie Turner one-timed a smooth tap-in with 2:58 to play to make it a nervous two-score lead though, and then Bjorn complicated the issue with a five-minute major high-sticking penalty to give the most dangerous power play in the Great Lakes Hockey League a man-advantage for the rest of regulation.

Portage Lake quickly took advantage, with Pete Rouleau lighting the lamp on a sweet backdoor pass from Turner before leading scorer Ryan Sullivan tied it all up with a quick deflection at the doorstep.

In all, the Pioneers scored four of their six goals with a man-advantage.

“I was just playing hard, I don’t really know what happened,” Bjorn said of his major. “You have to stay out of the box against them though, everyone can see what they can do when you are in the box.”

“That power play today was just on fire,” Babcock added. “I’m happy that we only let them score two in that five minute major, because they have a lot of talented players and they know where to put the puck. They find that backdoor guy, that is their go-to play, and if that is not there they are able to adjust and make another play.”

Bjorn was able to atone for his trip the box, however, by banging home Erkkila’s pass for the winner.

It was the first real chance in overtime for the Wolverines after the Pioneers had opportunity after opportunity just miss.

Sullivan couldn’t find the handle in front of the net and Kent Daavettila clipped the post for Portage Lake, but the players and PL supporters were most furious when referee Matt Hampton waved off an apparent-winner for a crease violation against the Pioneers.

Calumet took advantage as Bjorn’s tally went strongly against the grain of play.

“Erkkila was going hard down the side and me and (Eric) Bausano were both going hard to the net. Erkkila threw it at the net and it just went in,” Bjorn said.

“Give a lot of credit to our goalie (Ryan Patrick), that was a long game and he was taking a lot of shots,” Bjorn added.

Calumet led 4-1 after the first two periods as the Wolverines were opportunistic with their chances. Logan Rastello scored the first two for Calumet off Babcock shots and Erkkila made it a three-goal lead with a blast from the right-boards as he carried into the zone.

Both Babcock and Bjorn echoed that the hard-nosed play of the first two periods would be necessary tonight to end a streak of six-straight Gibson series losses.

“The biggest thing for us, especially on the small ice is to get in their face, play hard, crash hard to the net and make them make mistakes,” Babcock said. “That is a lot of what we did in the first two periods and that is why we had success then.”