Eskymos complete sweep of Alpena Wildcats

WELLS – If the fourth-ranked Escanaba Eskymos’ hockey team thought their second game with the Alpena Wildcats less than 24 hours apart would be just as easy as their 9-2 victory Friday night, Alpena showed them they had another thing coming. Alpena certainly was a different team Saturday afternoon, but the Eskymos were still able to come away with a 6-4 victory.

The Eskymos came out playing their hard skating, smooth and fluid style and generated a ton of scoring chances in a 19-shot first period, but the strong and physically superior Wildcats certainly made their presence known, dominating physical play and delivering hard clean checks right from the start. Even Emily Duncan, the lone female Wildcat, didn’t shy away from physical contact, delivering a few hits of her own.

The Eskymos got on the board first when Ben Lasecki tipped a puck past Alpena goaltender Jesse Boilore off the rebound. Esky added another goal on the powerplay and escaped the first period with a 2-0 lead. It was a fortunate lead as two golden scoring chances for Alpena went right off the crossbar of Jack Valentine’s goal.

“A goalie’s best friends are the post and the crossbar,” said Escanaba coach Tim McCarthy. “This was the first big game that Jack (a freshman backup) has played with all the shots, and he did well. He made a lot of fantastic saves.”

Escanaba (14-3) picked up where it left off in the second period and scored 22 seconds in when sophomore Levi Wunder, already Escanaba’s single-season career scoring leader, rocketed home his 29th goal of the year. But the game was anything but over.

Once the Wildcats (7-9-1) got on the scoreboard, just over four minutes into the period, it began an avalanche.

Alpena’s second goal, just under a minute later, came off a giant turnover directly in front of Valentine. Right Wing Zach Nash was happy to accept the gift. The Wildcats’ third and tying goal came nearly two minutes after that was a shot from nearly center ice that was mishandled and trickled in. “

“The group of kids we have are very resilient,” said Alpena coach Pete Doubek. “We’ve preached all year, don’t hang your heads, and they’ve come back in a lot of games and fought until the very end.”

Just like that, Alpena evaporated their deficit and had the Eskymos on their heels.

“We probably had more tape to tape passes to them in the second period,” lamented McCarthy. “You give it to them and the took advantage of it. I would hope our team would do the same thing.

“They’re a very good opponent. They’re physical, they made their presence known and they certainly weren’t going to let us have another 9-2 victory like we had Friday night.”

The Eskymos were able to escape the second period with the score tied at 3-3 and seemed to snap out of their funk in the final 17 minutes. Dominating the scoring chances, Escanaba’s relentless attack generated an astounding 23 shots on net in the third period. But it wasn’t until eight minutes in that the Eskymos could exhale somewhat, as Jake Eastin poked in the tie-breaking goal. Nick Vandermissen added the insurance three minutes later.

“We were down in that second period, and I say down because we lost the period,” said McCarthy. “But we came back in the third period. Our guys knew they could do it.:

Alpena at one point seemed to have the tying goal in the third when perhaps by trick of the eye the puck appeared to bounce in and out of the net but the light didn’t go off and play continued, though the play sparked some discussion after the game.

“At the end it was questionable whether or not that puck went in. It’s hard to see from the bench,” said Doubek. “We had some opportunities that obviously could have changed the game, but I’m proud of the kids’ effort.”

The Eskymos will play in the prestigious MIchigan Public School Showcase this weekend, facing top teams ranked in Division one (Rochester United), two (Hartland) and three (Chelsea).