Calumet Copper Kings surrender 4 first-period goals in 6-3 state hockey championship game loss to Warren DeLaSalle

Calumet head coach Dan Giachino speaks with Rory Anderson after the Copper Kings’ 6-3 loss to Warren DeLaSalle in the Division 3 state championship game in Plymouth on Saturday. (Photo courtesy Andrew Knapik/MiHockeyNow)

PLYMOUTH — For almost five minutes Saturday afternoon at the USA Hockey Arena, things in the Division 3 state championship game were going just the way the No. 3 Calumet wanted it to.

The Copper Kings controlled much of the play against No. 5 Warren DeLaSalle.

Then, everything changed when Pilots co-captain Thomas Hernandez took the ice. Hernandez struck twice in the first period as part of his team’s four-goal opening frame, and later completed his hat trick in the second period to help lift the Pilots to a 6-3 victory over Calumet.

For the Copper Kings, the loss was just their third since opening the season 0-4. They played well throughout the game, but it wasn’t enough to make up for the efforts of the Pilots’ co-captain and his linemates.

“That was three solid players they have together,” Copper Kings coach Dan Giachino said. “They are good-sized, they were physical and they had good speed.”

Hernandez, a senior, came into the Pilots’ first-ever state title game with 17 goals and 36 points on the season in just 16 contests. When he made his presence known Saturday, it was loud and clear.

Hernandez got behind Calumet’s Trevor Johnson and received a lead pass from Austin Scott, skated in alone on goaltender Nick Voelker and beat the junior with a low wrist shot at 4:49.

Scott scored the Pilots’ second goal just 34 seconds later when he tipped a pass from Gregory Pine past Voelker.

Nearly three minutes after Scott put the Pilots up 2-0, Hernandez extended the Pilots’ lead to three when he won a faceoff to Voelker’s left, tracked down in the slot and beat Voelker with a wrist shot from the hash marks at 8:19.

To make matters worse, while the Pilots were scoring goals, they were also laying their bodies on sophomore Brent Loukus and captain Rory Anderson wherever possible.

“They had a little bit more jump than we did early in the game,” Giachino said.

The two goals on their first two shots followed by the third goal just under three minutes later had the Copper Kings reeling, and Giachino burned his timeout to try and rally his troops.

“(I) just (wanted) them to refocus,” Giachino said. “It was a hole, but we were capable of climbing out of it.”

Shortly after the reset, the Copper Kings had a great scoring chance when Anderson attempted a wraparound, but his shot was stopped by Pilots goaltender Andrew Grewette.

The Pilots extended their lead to 4-0 when Nicholas Aiello jumped on a loose puck in the corner and fed it out front to James Corbett at 14:04, ending Voelker’s night.

Freshman Alex Studebaker replaced Voelker, and the team immediately went to work to support him. The youngster made 14 stops the rest of the way.

Ed Beiring got the puck behind the Pilots’ net where Anderson was positioned. Anderson fed it back out into the slot, where Loukus could get to it and his quick shot beat Grewette at 14:57.

In the second period, the Copper Kings kept the pressure on and eventually they were rewarded when senior Izaak Avery’s shot missed the back boards, kicked right back out front, hit Grewette and bounced into the net at 13:50.

Beiring pulled the Copper Kings back within two when he picked up the puck in the slot, deked to his forehand and beat Grewette with a wrist shot at 10:08.