USA Hockey Magazine

April / May 2018

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APRIL/MAY 2018 USAHOCKEYMAGAZINE.COM // 23 "Outside of hockey, outside of playing against each other's schools, everybody's buddies for the most part. But as soon as you hit the ice, all friendships are off," says Dawson McKay, who is from Houghton. "You've got to battle each other, but when we're back on the same team, everybody gets along." Flipping that switch from friends to foes and back again can be difficult. "It's something when you get on the ice it makes your blood boil and you want to just go at it with them," says Brent Loukus, a native of Calumet. "But once you get off [the ice], everything 's forgotten." To add fuel to the fire of the rivalries this past season, the three high school teams at one point were ranked No. 1, 2 and 3 in Division 3 in Michigan. Hancock was top-ranked, fol- lowed by Calumet and Houghton. "When we're battling and yapping at each other on the ice, it can get out of hand sometimes," says Ted Randell, who is from Hancock. "But then off the ice, we're all buddies at the end of the day." Somehow the players are able to table their prep rivalries with a USA Hockey National Championship on the line. It can be a challenge for Stipech and his coaching staff to bring the players together one week after their high school seasons end to play for a common goal of winning a national title. To help with the reunification process, Stipech gathers his guys for a little hockey history lesson in Copper Country. It's enough to make players realize they are not just representing their individual high schools, they're representing the entire region. In addition, two recent events have tightened the team's bond. Two of the players' parents were diagnosed with cancer and another player's brother had life-threatening spinal sur- gery as a result of scoliosis. "It's nice having a team there to support you through everything," McKay says. "I went through something similar last year and it was great to have all the guys there to help you with whatever you need." It's not just players who have been sup- portive, it's everyone in the local hockey community who rallies together for a greater cause. "We're trying to win something, but it's more than just hockey where we live," Randell says. "When something happens, we all come together and make sure they're OK and feeling loved. At the end of the day, it's a big family." P Greg Bates is a freelance writer based in Green Bay, Wis. Houghton, Hancock and Calumet, Mich. Team Copper Country put on an impressive offensive display to capture its second straight USA Hockey Tier II 18 & Under National Championship title this year in Green Bay, Wis. 2018 SUMMER GCHOCKEY.COM REGISTER ONLINE TODAY! FULL DAY HALF DAY WEEKLY HOCKEY SCHOOL E U R O P E A N

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