Progress not far enough for Calumet victory

HOUGHTON – Calumet’s improving, but after two nights of the MacInnes Holiday Classic, the Copper Kings are measuring their progress in units smaller than wins.

Saturday, Calumet went to the third period tied with Sault Ste. Marie, but the Blue Devils had the only two goals in the third to win the tournament’s consolation game 5-3.

“I thought we played both ends of the rink pretty good. The work habits were good, the bottom line is, these guys were trying awful hard and one of these days something good’s going to happen,” Calumet coach Jim Crawford said.

After scoring less than two goals in five of their first six games, the Copper Kings (1-8-1) have scored two or more in their last four. But three wasn’t enough against the Blue Devils.

“Our secondary scoring tonight was there for us,” Sault coach John Ferroni said. “These are our younger players and they weren’t supposed to be our secondary scoring this year, but they’ve done a nice job filling in for some of the other guys that are out.”

Kolbe Peller had a pair of goals for the winners, while junior Matthew Sirk and sophomore Hunter Krause also scored as the Blue Devils (9-2), ranked fifth in the state in Division 3 going into the weekend, stopped their losing skid at two.

“We’ve had trouble scoring our last two games, and I think tonight we got through that because of our secondary scoring,” Ferroni said.

Robert Erkkila put Calumet up early with a power-play goal from low in the left circle at 8:04 of the first, but the lead lasted only about three minutes until Peller took a pass from Chase Gamelin, split the Calumet defense pair and went in alone successfully on Kings goalie Ian Carroll.

Less than three minutes after that, Sirk wired a shot over Carroll’s glove into the top corner for a 2-1 Sault lead after 17 minutes.

Calumet recovered well, however, as Erkkila equalized just 58 seconds into the next period, then assisted on a goal from Eric Mattila, playing through a shoulder injury suffered less than two weeks ago, on the go-ahead tally at 3:52.

Sault tied it midway through the period on a blast from the point by Peller, one-timed after deflecting off an official.

Just 1:20 into the third, an unassisted tally from Krause put Sault in the lead for good and chased Carroll. In addition to goaltending issues, Crawford noted that Mattila, a team leader, was in the penalty box at the pivotal moment. Though the Kings had killed off his high-sticking infraction late in the second period, Mattila was still serving a 10-minute misconduct with which Crawford did not agree.

“That was the turning point of the game that’s deadly,” he said.

Calumet had its opportunities late, including a 5-on-3 and a flying chance for Mattila, but Sault goalie Nicholas McKenzie turned them all away, finishing with 31 saves.

Will Gauthier tacked on a late insurance goal for the final margin.

“I think we were absolutely better than we were last night,” Crawford said.

Calumet’s schedule doesn’t get any easier, with Division 1 powerhouses Novi (Friday) and Brighton (Saturday) coming in next weekend.