Eskymos seize Gil Versailles Tourney

WELLS – It was a crowning moment for the Escanaba hockey team Sunday as it earned the Dick Jensen/Gil Versailles Memorial tournament title with a 5-2 victory over a vastly improved Negaunee squad.

Esky (7-3) seized control of the championship contest by scoring three times in the third period.

Senior forward T.J. Myrick snapped a 2-2 deadlock four minutes, 39 seconds into the third by slipping the puck past junior Tyler Riutta during a scramble in front of the Negaunee net.

“It’s always huge to get the go-ahead goal, especially when you’re battling the scoreboard all night,” said Esky coach Matt Hughes. “That was a great boost for the team.”

The Eskymos gained some breathing room with 2:03 left to play when senior defenseman Derek Chaillier scored from point-blank range for a 4-2 cushion.

Myrick then added an empty-net goal with 21 seconds remaining.

Also among third-period highlights for the Eskymos was a penalty kill during which they didn’t allow a shot on goal.

“We were able to control the puck and send it down the ice, which was very good defense on our part,” said Hughes.

Chaillier, among Esky’s defensive leaders, prevented a possible tying goal with a poke check on a breakaway attempt in the third period when the Eskymos were clinging to a 3-2 lead.

“Derek had a good game,” said Hughes. “He’s a competitor and that’s why he’s one of our captains.”

Esky outshot the Miners 49-21 in this match-up, including a 12-1 shots on goal advantage in the third frame.

“I think we wore them down in the third period,” said Hughes. “We played more physical. We started playing the body more. We’re pleased to get that many shots on goal. Only, we would like to see our guys take little quicker shots from the point. We allowing opposing teams a little too much time to set up their defense.”

Junior forward Levi Wunder scored Esky’s first goal on a slapshot from near the point 9:34 into the contest.

Negaunee (4-8) tied the contest 3:28 into the second stanza when junior center Chad Larson scored from the doorstep on a breakaway.

The Miners then took a 2-1 lead on freshman forward Trevor Borlace’s right angle shot six minutes later.

With 1:47 left in the second, senior forward Steve Wood tied the contest from the doorstep following a scramble for the puck.

“We played a great game in our zone,” said Negaunee coach Darrel Sleeman. “We wanted to cut down on their great scoring opportunties and make them work hard in our zone. But any miscue we made, Escanaba capitalized. I thought they played a great game, too.”

Riutta finished with 44 saves. Esky sophomore Jack Valentine stopped 19 shots on the opposite end.

“We had pretty good goaltending for the most part,” said Sleeman. “I thought we also did a pretty good job on our penalty kill.

Negaunee had just one penalty in the contest and Esky had three. Neither team scored on the power play.

Esky travels to the Copper Country this weekend, facing Cheboygan Friday and Grand Blanc Saturday in the Jeffers New Year’s tournament at Michigan Tech. Negaunee visits L’Anse Friday.

In Saturday’s game, freshman forward Steve Suhonen scored on a power play midway through the third period, helping Painesdale Jeffers preserve a 4-2 victory over Negaunee.

Brady Guilbault, Drew Morris and Nick Harris also scored for the Jets (7-2), who led 3-2 after the opening frame.

Eric Farley and Neal Violetta hit goals for the Miners.