Hat trick: Triplets form a line of their own for Northland prep hockey teamFor a brief time last season, Superior boys hockey coach Jason Kalin split up the Mikel triplets line. He quickly realized the error of his ways.
By: Rick Weegman, Duluth News Tribune
For a brief time last season, Superior boys hockey coach Jason Kalin split up the Mikel triplets line.
He quickly realized the error of his ways.
“We split them up a couple times last year just to try some different lineups, but it just didn’t work. It wasn’t the right thing to do,” Kalin said. “At the time, we were trying to inspire more effort out of everybody by shaking up the lines. We found out it didn’t work so well so we put it back together. This year it’s been wonderful.”
Steven, Richard and Gerald Mikel are playing key roles as the Spartans attempt to return to the Wisconsin high school state tournament after having their nine-year run interrupted last season.
None of the triplets scored in Tuesday’s 3-1 victory over Madison Edgewood in a Hilltopper Holiday Classic quarterfinal at Mars Lakeview Arena, but all have been having quality seasons. Through seven games, right winger Richard (3 goals, 5 assists, eight points), center Steven (4-3—7) and left winger Gerald (3-4—7) all rank in the top six in team scoring.
“Richard came out of his shell this year,” Kalin said. “He’s one of the best forecheckers on the team and part of the penalty-kill unit and the power-play unit. Gerald does not mind giving up the puck — he loves making passes. And Steven’s one of the best skaters I’ve seen in a while.”
The 17-year-old senior brothers say they each have their own niche.
“We each have our own style and play off each other’s talents and strengths,” said Steven, the oldest — by minutes — of the non-identical triplets. “Gerald is a good playmaker and Richard is a good forechecker.”
Kalin says they are stronger and more confident this year and are moving the puck extremely well. And he no longer wonders if he should split them up.
“They don’t communicate verbally much on the ice, they just move the puck freely and all have their roles,” he said. “They’ve really come into their own this year.”
That comes from playing on the same team — and virtually always on the same line — since they were about 10.
“We have a lot of familiarity,” Gerald said. “We tend to get a feel for what each other is going to do — what we’re trying to execute.”
The triplets also have a younger brother, sophomore Daniel, who plays mostly on the junior varsity.
Daniel Litchke scored short-handed and the second-ranked Spartans (5-2-1) used solid goaltending by Scott Crawford and an empty-net goal to close out Edgewood. They face No. 1 Notre Dame Academy of Green Bay at 5:45 p.m. in today’s semifinals and play again Thursday before turning their attention back to qualifying for the state tournament.
That was virtually a given year-in and year-out until losing 4-3 to New Richmond in the Sectional 1 finals last February. The Spartans avenged that loss earlier this season in the same building their state tournament streak was snapped.
“That’s by far the biggest goal this year,” Gerald Mikel said of returning to a tournament Superior has won a record 12 times. “We have the team to get back down to state. No one wants to experience that feeling again. We’re really determined to go down there and make some noise and, hopefully, win it.”