HOUGHTON - Territorially, the Portage Lake Pioneers controlled Game 1 of the 2014 Gibson Cup series. Mathematically, the Calumet Wolverines won it: 3-2.
Mathematically, the Wolverines are one win on home ice from taking the best-of-three series. Historically, they've got a little farther to go.
"They did possess the puck in our zone quite a bit, but our guys did a pretty good job of keeping the lanes open so I could see the shots clearly. They didn't have many deflections, really, so I saw pretty much every shot fine and they kept it to the outside," Calumet goaltender Ryan Patrick said.
Calumet goaltender Ryan Patrick reaches behind his net for a puck in the air during the second period of Game 1 of the Gibson Cup series against the Portage Lake Pioneers Thursday at Dee Stadium. Patrick made 36 saves as Calumet won 3-2. Blake Miller arrives for Portage Lake. (DMG photo by Brandon Veale)
Patrick made 36 saves for the Wolverines, who were outshot 38-23 but never trailed. Logan Rastello scored twice, including the game-winner with 7:08 remaining.
Rastello leads the team with 18 goals in Great Lakes Hockey League play and has been on fire lately, scoring 10 in March alone including three against Mosinee on the 7th and four in Eagle River last Friday.
"We were working it good, moving it good, but I went to the net and they found me. It wasn't all me," Rastello said.
The game-winner came from a rush initiated by Tyler Froberg.
Froberg crossed both blue lines and got deep into the Portage Lake zone before laying off a pass to Rastello.
The Wolverines made it hold up despite Portage Lake's late pressure and can clinch the Cup for the first time since 2009 with a win either in Game 2 tonight in Calumet or Game 3 Saturday back at the Dee.
It sounds simple on paper, but the Wolverines' problem is Calumet has won the first game of the series played at the Dee in each of the last three Gibson Cup series, lost their home game, then lost Game 3 and the Cup in Houghton.
The cupholders normally host games 1 and 3, though because of scheduling, Game 1 was won by Portage Lake in Calumet last year before the Wolverines took Game 2 at the Dee in overtime. The Pioneers won Game 3 5-2 and the two deciders before that 5-3 and 6-2.
It's a safe bet the Pioneers will be tough to eliminate again.
"They keep you guessing. They're so shifty with the puck, they have eyes in the back of their head, they're all moving into open space and passing it to wide-open guys all the time," Patrick said.
Calumet took advantage of a defensive blunder to jump into the lead on the first shift.
Rastello collected a turnover behind the net by PL goalie Matt Messina and centered it to Eric Bausano, whose shot was deflected but got over the line 38 seconds into the game.
The Wolverines held a 1-0 lead despite getting outshot 12-4 in the first period, but Pete Rouleau got PL on the board less than five minutes into the second frame.
Rastello put his team back ahead late in the period with an unassisted goal, but the Pioneers' Ryan Sullivan tied it up by poking one in from the slot with 10:46 to play.
Puck luck just wasn't with the Pioneers, who hit at least four posts, but the 'hockey gods' played some tricks on the visitors, too.
"They had a few pipes but we hit a few pipes too. They could have easily could have had three, four more goals, but so could've we," Rastello said.
Messina stopped 20 shots for PL, which will regroup in hopes of a fourth straight 2-1 series victory.
"We have to come back to the (Colosseum tonight) with the same intensity, if not more intensity, skate hard, finish checks and hopefully end up on top," Patrick said.