Houghton Earning Opportunity to Dream Big with 12-0 Season Start

By John Vrancic
Special for MHSAA.com

January 5, 2023

HOUGHTON — One might be tempted to say the Houghton Gremlins are living the dream this hockey season.

The Gremlins remained undefeated through 12 games, earning a 7-3 victory over neighboring Hancock in the Dec. 28 championship game of the John MacInnes Holiday tournament to finish their calendar year 2022 schedule.

“This is an awesome tournament, and we’re proud to be part of it,” said Houghton coach Corey Markham. “This is something we always end the first half of our season with. It provides a real good atmosphere.”

Houghton is coming off a 15-12 season that ended with an overtime Regional Final loss to Calumet, which went on to reach the Division 3 Semifinals. The Gremlins have downed Calumet twice already this winter, including 8-0 in a Dec. 27 MacInnes opener.

“Our top line is super skilled and fast,” said Markham. “Our depth is really strong for a high school team. We returned our top two scoring lines, and our top four scorers are seniors. They’re physically strong. This is a real strong group. This is my 24th year and I’ve had few teams that could skate as well as this team.”

The MacInnes title contest against Hancock was tied at 3-3 after the first period before the Gremlins added two goals in each of the next two periods.

“Hancock came ready to play,” said Markham. “Our top defensive player was injured, and they took advantage of it. We had kids playing in different positions, which tends to break up your chemistry. We keep coming and score a lot of goals and don’t give up many goals. It’s unusual for us to give up three goals in one period.”

This season's Houghton team celebrates with a photo after the historic Hartland win. Senior Landon Stevens was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player, and senior Camden Markham scored four goals to go with two assists against Hancock.

“This feels really good,” said Stevens. “We played good the whole tournament. Hancock played really good in the first period. We just worked real hard in our defensive zone.”

On Dec. 20, the Gremlins overcame a two-goal deficit after two periods to defeat Calumet 4-2.

“Calumet is young, but has a real good program,” said Camden Markham. “Being down 2-0 was scary, but once we scored our first goal the momentum changed. We ran into a hot goaltender, but found a way to score on him.”

Another highlight took place three days earlier when the Gremlins defeated Division 1 power Hartland 5-1.

“They were the top-ranked team in the state,” said Stevens. “They’re really good. We had never beaten them before, but were excited to play them. They have a super skilled team.”

That victory also gave Corey Markham his 379th coaching victory, breaking the school record of longtime coach Don Miller, who led the program from 1969-76 and 1978-99. Markham is up to 12th in MHSAA hockey coaching history with a record of 382-213-22 since his start with the 1999-2000 season.

Camden Markham, an all-state first-team forward last season, has 20 goals and a team-high 43 points this season. Stevens has scored a team-high 21 goals, with 15 assists, and junior Mike Maillette has 12 goals. Senior Gaborik Carlson, an all-state second-team forward last winter, has 22 assists with seven goals, and junior goalie Bryant Lee is giving up 1.12 goals per game with a .941 save percentage over eight games.

“They (Houghton) have a super team,” said Hancock coach Scott Mikesch. “They’re a real gifted offensive team. They’re well coached and they play hard. They can play any type of game. We had to play everybody tonight just to stay with them. There’s no shame in losing to Houghton. It’s nice to score on a team with that much horsepower.”

The Gremlins are No. 1 in the latest Division 3 rankings and next host Division 1 No. 3 Brighton on Friday at Dee Stadium.

Despite their success, Coach Markham knows the Gremlins still have work to do.

“We have to keep getting better,” he said. “We’re going to get everybody’s best game. They’re going to be coming after us. Hancock has a good defensive team. They tried to slow us down and it worked.”

John Vrancic has covered high school sports in the Upper Peninsula since joining the Escanaba Daily Press staff in 1985. He is known most prominently across the peninsula for his extensive coverage of cross country and track & field that frequently appears in newspapers from the Wisconsin border to Lake Huron. He received the James Trethewey Award for Distinguished Service in 2015 from the Upper Peninsula Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association.

PHOTOS (Top) Houghton captains Sully Rajala (4), Camden Markham (9), Gaborik Carlson (8) and Landon Stevens (13) hold up the John McInnes Memorial Tournament trophy Dec. 28. (Middle) This season's Houghton team celebrates with a photo after the historic Hartland win. (Photos courtesy of the Houghton hockey program.)