Wunder-ful win for Esky

WELLS – The Escanaba Eskymos gave the Alpena Wildcats more than they could handle Friday night as they completed the 9-2 rout to improve to 13-3.

Escanaba started fast early, and was clearly the aggressor to start the contest.

“Esky is the quickest team I’ve seen,” said Wildcats coach Pete Doubek. “I warned our kids that they were going to come out fast. Their floor check was just awesome.”

Nick Vandermissen struck first, taking the puck all the way in from the blue line off a pass from Levi Wunder to put the Eskymos on top 1-0.

Alpena (7-8-1) tried to even the score, but goalie Nick LeMire was able to keep them at bay with three saves in under a minute of play. On the other end, Vandermissen came up with another goal off some great passing from Derek Chaillier and Levi Wunder, and the Wildcats found themselves in a 2-0 hole 10 minutes into the game.

However, a bad pass by the Eskymos deflected off the boards and opened up the tip shot opportunity for Alpena’s Zachery Nash, and just like that, the Wildcats were right back in it.

The Eskymos controlled the puck for the majority of the period, but one small mistake allowed Alpena to hang around, at least momentarily.

Just 1:37 into the second period, Quintin McCarthy scored his first goal of the season to put Escanaba up 3-1. Shortly afterward, The Eskymos earned their first power play opportunity, and they looked determined to take advantage of it.

Wunder put in his 27th goal of the season on a backhand shot, and the Wildcats’ hopes began to dwindle. Steve Wood tapped in a goal minutes later off a nice setup from Jake Eastin on a back-handed pass, and the rout looked well underway as the Eskymos put themselves ahead 5-1.

Alpena scored one more goal in the contest on a pass from the far boards that was blasted in by Jared Kwiatkowski. They may have been down 5-2, but that goal was enough to bring the Wildcats back to life, as the Eskymos found themselves stuck in their own zone.

“I was proud of my kids for not giving up,” Doubek said.

But the momentum shift would be short-lived. Escanaba went back to crowding the Alpena zone, and Dylan Gauthier scored his first goal of the year to get his team going again.

That was followed by another Escanaba power play, and just 11 seconds in Jake Eastin drilled in a goal that was assisted by Vandermissen and Wunder. With that, Wunder set the school record with 50 points on a season.

“I knew I wanted to come play here and help the team, but (achieving) that was unimaginable,” Wunder said.

The second period concluded with the Eskymos up 7-2, and the Wildcats would have a power play to begin the third. However, they didn’t have any luck converting it, and the story of the third period was a mass of penalties.

“I thought we battled, and tried to win the third period, and we played some good hockey there,” Doubek added. “I don’t like to see the chippiness at the end though.”

Wunder and Dan Ritter would put in some goals in the final two minutes to boost the score, but the damage had been done in the second period.

Both teams finished with 12 penalties, and the penalty box was a full house as the game drew to a close. Alpena’s Jared Plume received a disqualification for referee contact, and there were slashing and unsportsmanlike conduct calls being handed out like candy.

“It got out of hand at the end,” said Escanaba coach Tim McCarthy, “but their team hustled well. They came out, they fought us. We just had really good speed and effort in their zone.”

The two teams will play again at 1 p.m. today at Wells.