Pioneers make first move on Wolverines

CALUMET – In a Great Lakes Hockey League opener, it’s probably a better bet to anticipate some lethargic legs than it is to expect a bunch of goals or even a scrap or two.

Wednesday, the Portage Lake Pioneers may not have got things going first, but they finished the best, putting up four of the five goals in the third period of an 8-5 win over the Calumet Wolverines.

“It took us about a period and a half to get going, but it’s a given for the first game of the season. It takes a while to get the legs going,” said PL’s Charlie Turner, who scored twice in the third period.

Calumet, opening its schedule and the 100th consecutive season of competitive hockey at Calumet Colosseum, scored twice in the first three minutes and led 3-2 after 20 minutes. The Pioneers evened it up in the second and pulled away in the third to win the first of four league meetings this season between the Copper Country senior hockey rivals.

Defenseman Brady Olson tied it up for the first time just 2:48 into the second period with his shot from the top of the right circle. Another defenseman, Tim Viola, gave the Pioneers their first lead with just two minutes remaining in the frame, but the advantage lasted all of 15 seconds. The Wolverines’ Jeff Erkkila got a shot through for a 4-4 tie after two periods.

“We actually came out and moved the puck a lot better. Coming out of the zone was a lot less sloppy,” Turner said.

The sides remained deadlocked for a while in the third, but the Pioneers got the break they needed while shorthanded, generating a 2-on-1. Ryan Sullivan kept the puck and got the goal as Calumet goalie Ryan Patrick appeared to have at least knocked it down but couldn’t keep it or himself from sliding back into his own net for the 5-4 goal about six minutes in.

Turner bagged the first of his pair a few minutes later, stopping quickly to drop a defenseman on him, then throwing it on net successfully.

Calumet threw the finish into doubt on Isaac Bjorn’s power-play goal with 2:03 to play, but that doubt lasted just a few fleeting seconds until Turner’s second of the game 20 seconds later. Jeff Laux added an insurance tally with 51 seconds left.

“We have three good lines, so once we get going and get shots, we can generate goals,” Turner said.

The teams meet again on the Saturday night of Thanksgiving weekend at Dee Stadium, but before then, both have home games against the Madison Blues, with the Wolverines playing Nov. 22 and the Pioneers the following night.