Gremlins stick it to Kings

HOUGHTON – As the two largest schools in the Copper Country, the Houghton and Calumet hockey rivalry has always been skated to an intensity fitting its nature.

But that was before, when the Gremlins and Copper Kings met for non-conference games.

Add the Great Lakes Hockey Conference affiliation the pair now share?

You get an affair loaded with hits, some post-whistle chippiness and skaters leaving everything they can out on the ice.

Calumet struck first Tuesday night, taking a 1-0 lead from Ryan Nelson’s wrister, but the Gremlins have been powering through opponents all year, and Tuesday was no different as the hosts scored six straight at Dee Stadium to eventually come away with a 7-2 win.

“Getting into this new conference is huge, it makes better hockey for everyone around here and that’s always a good thing,” Houghton senior captain Connor Hannon said. “Calumet brought their best tonight, but over the game we did what we needed to do.

“We don’t like them and they don’t like us. I don’t think that has changed in 35 years.”

Houghton coach Corey Markham gave his team an earful after Anderson’s tally, not happy with the focus his group was displaying.

The experience-laden Gremlins listened and responded, with Ray Brice netting his fifth goal of the year on the power play after a crisp back-door pass from Jed Kallio.

Brice would score another off the power play late in the third period – an instinctive backhand tally from his knees in front of the net – and the Gremlins got a third with a man-advantage in a 6-on-5 situation with the referee waiting to call a penalty on Calumet.

“I thought we moved it real well on the power play, a couple nice plays,” Markham said. “A couple backdoor plays – we didn’t even score on all of them – but I was really happy with how we worked it around.”

Hannon put the Gremlins ahead for good in the second period with an individual effort, taking the puck behind the net and skating to the goal-front to punch it in.

Hannon then assisted on Kallio’s game-winning tally with a zipped pass from the blueline through two or three sticks to gift Kallio a wide-open net.

“When you have to deal with everyone on our team as a (potential scoring) threat, it gives you a lot of time and a lot of space, I just try to capitalize off that,” Hannon said.

“His hockey sense is tremendous. He is one of the smartest players I have ever had,” Markham added of Hannon, who finished with a goal and three assists.

The floodgates opened from there, with William Liston, Reid Pietila and Jon Bostwick all lighting the lamp in a third-period flurry.

Liston and Pietila’s goals came within 20 seconds of each other as the Houghton rush stomped out Calumet’s hopes for good.

Calumet defenseman Brad Hodges would get one back for the visitors late in the third period, but Brice scored on the power play two minutes later in response.

“We have good depth,” Markham said. “It is good to see us able to do that. We have three lines that can really skate and it is nice to see that our third line got a goal tonight.”

Houghton outshot Calumet 41-25, but Markham was impressed with visitor’s intensity for large stretches of the game.

“I thought Calumet came out outskating us, out hitting us and outplaying us,” Markham said. “We got it together in the end, but they gave us a good test.”