The Cappo Cup has returned to the Soo.
The Cup, first presented in the 1991-92 season by the late Monsignor Louis Cappo to the winner of the season series between Lake Superior State and Northern Michigan, was awarded to the Lakers for the first time since 2016.
Following a 6-1 win on Friday, Lake Superior (11-21-4, 9-13-4-4 WCHA) fell 5-1 to the Wildcats (17-13-4, 15-10-1-1 WCHA), splitting the very physical series. The Lakers received the Cup on virtue of 7 goals to 6.
“I don’t like the result tonight, so it’s bittersweet with the way the game went, especially with last night,” said Lakers head coach Damon Whitten, following Saturday’s game. “It’s nice, we haven’t had it here in a few years. It’s back where it belongs and we’re going to do our best to make sure it stays here for a good stretch.”
Friday: Lakers 6, Wildcats 1
On Friday night, Lake Superior got to Wildcat goaltender Nolan Kent early, as two quick goals by Max Humitz and Ashton Calder led Northern Michigan head coach Grant Potulny to replace Kent with John Hawthorne. Humitz added another goal before the end of the first period, giving the Lakers a 3-0 lead.
Although Northern Michigan gained a 13-8 shot advantage in the middle period, it was the Lakers who added to their goal total, with marks from Brendan McKay and Pete Veillette. Although Luke Voltin got the ‘Cats on the board in the third, Bryan Basilico’s first goal of the year helped seal the fate for the visitors with a 6-1 final.
“We’re two U.P. schools. They play hard, we take pride in playing hard and playing the right way,” he said on the physicality. “I thought [Friday’s] game was a bit cleaner between the whistles. [Saturday] I felt it broke down a bit, making it chippier, but a hard played rivalry is what we expect.”
Saturday: Wildcats 5, Lakers 1
Saturday was a busy night at the Taffy Abel Arena. In addition to the game, the team was celebrating Senior Night with a pregame on ice ceremony for its six seniors, while the festivities for the annual Check Slash Survive (formerly Pink in the Rink) game also took place. Whitten extended his thanks to all those involved with the various events of the evening.
“This was a senior class that is very well loved,” he said. “They’ve had great success on the ice, in the classroom and in our community. They’ve been a huge building block for our program. It’s a great group and we’re really going to miss them.”
Playing in their final home games were Humitz, Basilico, McKay, Brayden Gelsinger and Ian Johnston. Also honored before the game was defenseman Collin Saccoman, who sustained a season-ending injury in November.
As for the game, however, a stark reversal of fortune took place, as the Wildcats were the ones who opened up the big lead.
Mitchell Slattery opened the scoring, followed with another goal by Voltin. In the second period, Lake Superior’s McKay was given a 5 minute major and game misconduct for checking from behind. On the ensuing power play, Joseph Nardi and Griffin Loughran each connected, making the score 4-0 for Northern Michigan.
Lake Superior had opportunities to bet on the board, with two breakaway opportunities by Humitz and Chase Gamelin, but Kent was much sharper than the previous night, foiling both Lakers in their attempts.
Although Louis Boudon got the Lakers on the board in the third period, it was too little, too late for Lake Superior. An empty net goal by Nardi wrapped up the scoring and a 5-1 win for Northern Michigan and series split. The Wildcats snapped a five game losing streak in the process.
With the season series split 1-1, the Cappo Cup was decided by goal differential. By a one goal margin, the Lakers captured the trophy for the second time in Whitten’s tenure behind the bench.
Lake Superior has one more weekend of play before the WCHA Tournament begins. The Lakers will travel to Big Rapids for a series against Ferris State. The two teams last met in early November, with the Lakers earning their first home sweep of the Bulldogs since the 2010-11 season.
“We’ve been really good for a while,” commented Whitten. “We were a bit off tonight and couldn’t bounce back after a flat start, but we want to keep playing the way we’ve been playing. We have been getting great goaltending and getting different guys chipping in with secondary scoring.”