Ex-NMU icer remembered at Copper Country tournament

HOUGHTON – It looked like recent history but felt like destiny.

For the third year in a row the annual Gibson Cup series played out the same way: Portage Lake won a deciding Game 3 at Dee Stadium against Calumet.

For the first time, the Pioneers did it with the memory of core member Roger Lewis fueling their effort. Lewis died in a snowmobile accident in January at age 41.

“The weirdest thing was the end of the game. You expect him to go over there and take the cup,” the Pioneers’ Mike Stevens said after his team’s 5-2 win Saturday.

Lewis starred on the Houghton High School hockey team in the early 1990s and then spent three years playing at Northern Michigan University from 1994-97.

He was one of Portage Lake’s best-known members. It didn’t take long after the final buzzer for another Pioneer regular, Charlie Turner, to grab Lewis’ No. 22 jersey from where it was hanging behind the home bench and hold it up for the sizable crowd at the Dee on a celebratory lap around the ice.

“Every time we step on the ice, you know he’s there,”?Turner said.

“It gives you extra incentive to skate hard.”

The Pioneers then skated with the Gibson Cup, one of the oldest hockey trophies in North America, for the fifth year in a row with Lewis’ jersey close at hand.

After losing Friday’s Game 2 in overtime, the Great Lakes Hockey League regular season champion Pioneers made the rubber match anticlimactic.

Ryan Sullivan scored just 4:49 in to put the Pioneers ahead and Al L’Esperance pumped two more to make it 3-0 by the 12-minute mark.

The teams, who have already met five times during the season, including a GLHL regular-season series they split in December, will meet at least one more time at this weekend’s league tournament in Eagle River, Wis.

The teams are in the same three-team pool with Fond du Lac, Wis., and play in their last pool game this afternoon.