Meant to be in Game 3
HOUGHTON – It looked like recent history but felt like destiny.
For the third year in a row the annual Gibson Cup series played out the same way: Portage Lake won a deciding Game 3 at Dee Stadium against Calumet.
For the first time, the Pioneers did it with the memory of core member Roger Lewis fueling their effort.
“The weirdest thing was the end of the game. You expect him to go over there and take the cup,” the Pioneers’ Mike Stevens said after his team’s 5-2 win Saturday.
Lewis, one of the team’s best-known members, died in a January snowmobile accident. It didn’t take long after the final buzzer for another Pioneer regular, Charlie Turner, to grab Lewis’ ’22’ jersey from where it was hanging behind the home bench and hold it up for the sizable crowd at the Dee on a celebratory lap around the ice.
“Every time we step on the ice, you know he’s there. It gives you extra incentive to skate hard,” Turner said.
The Pioneers then skated the Gibson Cup, one of the oldest hockey trophies in north America, for the fifth year in a row, with Lewis’s jersey close at hand.
After losing Friday’s Game 2 in overtime, the Great Lakes Hockey League regular season champion Pioneers made the rubber match anticlimactic.
Ryan Sullivan scored just 4:49 in to put the Pioneers ahead and Al L’Esperance pumped two more to make it 3-0 by the 12-minute mark.
“We simplified it a lot tonight. We didn’t diddle-daddle with the puck, we got pucks deep,” Stevens said.
When given the opportunities, the Pioneers buried them. Portage Lake scored on its first two power plays. After L’Esperance made it 2-0 by following a rebound of Ryan Greenlee’s shot from right of the slot, he converted a partial 2-on-1 from Kent Daavettila on the same shift.
The Pioneers outshot the Wolverines 15-8 in the first period and 46-33 for the game.
Turner scored less than five minutes into the second for a 4-0 lead and though the Wolverines stabilized things from there on out, they never got closer than three goals as the Pioneers remained focused on not letting the Wolverines back into the game like Calumet did to them in Game 2.
Daavettila added a third-period goal for a two-point night, while Pete Heinonen and Greenlee posted a pair of assists apiece.
Jack Maccani and Cody Carlson scored for the Wolverines.
Mike Wuthrich was the winning goalie, making 31 saves. Ryan Patrick stopped 41 shots for Calumet.
The teams, who have already met five times this season (including a GLHL regular season series they split in December), will have at least one more encounter at next weekend’s league tournament in Eagle River, Wis. The teams are in the same three-team pool with Fond du Lac and will play in their last pool game Saturday afternoon. Each pool winner plus a wild card will make the semifinals.