Can Gremlin hockey have special year?/Paul Peterson

It’s a question that arises whenever a sports team shows signs of putting together a special season.

This year’s Houghton High hockey team has shown all the signs of joining a select circle of Copper Country teams.

For the sake of discussion, let’s compare this year’s Gremlins to the 1981-82 Houghton hockey team, the 1991-92 Calumet High hockey team and the 1965-66 L’Anse High basketball team.

All of the above teams have a common denominator – they won state championships.

Of course, there have been other local sports team that achieved that goal. Coach Jim Crawford’s Calumet hockey teams have won six state crowns, Hancock High snared a state hockey title in 1999, the Houghton High girls basketball team captured everything in 2005 and coach Ron Warner’s Lake Linden-Hubbell football teams won two state championships in the 1990s.

You also had the Chassell High and Mass High basketball teams that captured multiple state crowns in the 1950s.

The 1981-82 HHS icers of the late coach Don Miller were a team that gained momentum and rode it all the way to a title. They featured standouts like Joe Burcar, Chuck Lower, Rick Robillard, Bill Hauswirth and Mike Archambeau.

John Mahr, just a sophomore, emerged as the top goaltender and his work was a big key down the stretch.

The 1991-92 Calumet hockey team was a juggernaut, rolling up a 26-1 record in going the distance. The Copper Kings only loss that winter was a stunning 5-4 defeat to Jeffers.

Marc Pomroy, the second all-time scorer in CHS history, was the leader of that team. But he had plenty of help from Corey Rowe, Brian Talvensaari, Eric Frantti and Marc Helminen.

Jeff Leppen, the backup netminder a year before, was stellar in the playoffs. He stood out in a 4-3 double overtime win over Allen Park Cabrini in the state semifinals, which was really the title game. Calumet beat Flint Powers 13-0 for the championship.

The 1965-66 L’Anse High cagers actually lost to Hancock and Houghton early in the season. Then, they took off behind such stellar players as Gerry Gerard, Deane Kent, Roland Swartz and Bob Fredrikson.

By the time they flattened Flint Beecher in Class C state finals, they were as good as any local hoops team I’ve ever watched. Under coach Bill Popp, they ran off 39 straight wins into the next season before losing to Wakefield in the regionals.

Coach Corey Markham has the same kind of dynamics in this year’s team.

There’s explosive scorers in Ray Brice (who just passed Lower as the top scorer in HHS history) Connor Hannon, Jed Kallio and Reid Pietila. They function as a well-oiled machine, teamwork the key to their success.

The defensive corps of the Orange and Black is also solid as evidenced by recent 8-0 and 8-1 wins over Sault Ste. Marie and Hancock respectively in the MacInnes Holiday Classic attests. And goaltender Marcus Gloss has been very good.

Houghton dropped a hard-fought game to Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood earlier this season, the only blemish on its record. And if they advance downstate, they will almost certainly see the Cranes again.

Still, it will be most interesting to see if they can join the select group mentioned.