HANGING ON: Eskymos Slip Past Blue Devils, 3-2
WELLS---The Escanaba High School hockey team jumped to a 3-0 lead and held on to beat the Gaylord Blue Devils, 3-2, Friday night in Wells.
Senior goaltender Trevor Denome made 12 saves in the third period as the Eskymos went shorthanded three times. Denome's save on a Gaylord 2-on-1 break as time expired preserved the nervewracking victory for the Eskymos.
"I wasn't thinking too much, just that I had to track it and make the save," said Denome, who was picked the game's #1 star on Eskymo Senior Night. "A couple of plays before that, they kept passing it and they weren't successful with the passes. So, I figured he was gonna shoot, and I came out a little bit extra, and made the save with my lower pad."
Eskymo Head Coach Matt Hughes was breathing a sigh of relief.
"The ice got a little tilted, and not in our favor, a little over halfway through the second period," Hughes said. "Trev had to come up big. He had to make some big saves."
It looked like the Eskymos would cruise to victory after senior Ethan Silverstone scored a pair of goals 28 seconds apart late in the second period. Then early in the second period, after a wild sequence where the Eskymos peppered Gaylord goaltender Brewer Koleszar with several shots, Gunner Bourdeau scored from near the blueline on a play where he was just trying to get the puck deep. It was 3-0 Eskymos.
But as the second period went on, the Blue Devils took over, and became more physical. They started to carry the play, and late in the period, senior captain Samuel Gorno scored to put them on the board. Then, with just a handful of seconds left in the period, the Blue Devils won an offensive zone faceoff and Gabe Kleinsorge swept one past Denome with just 2.1 seconds left in the second period to make it 3-2.
"Those ones hurt, especially the coaching staff, because it's something that we preach in practice all the time," Hughes said. "You don't want to get scored on in the first or last minute of a period, because it typically sets the tone for the upcoming period."
Throughout the third period, the Blue Devils frequently caught the Eskymo defense flatfooted, which resulted in three Gaylord power plays and those saves by Denome. It also meant a lot of ice time for defensemen like senior Luke Labre.
"We had to get pucks out of our zone, that was the number one thing," said Labre, who was picked the game's third star despite a third period penalty. "We had to stop scrambling in front of our own net. Trevor stood on his head for us. We just had to keep it from the neutral zone and in their zone, and we pretty much had the game sealed."
Hughes said the team battled through a lot of adversity, with one of its top forwards, and "energy" spark plug Nick Kolich sitting out because of a concussion. Then, another centerman, Jayger LaMarch, suffered a concussion in Friday's game.
"Unfortunately, we lost a forward, so that dropped us down to eight forwards. We ran into some penalty trouble as well, and that could be attributed to fatigue," Hughes said. "But collectively, the boys came together as a group and we were able to grind this one out."
Gaylord outshot Escanaba, 26-19.
The Blue Devils fell to 10-9 on the season and will play at Kingsford Saturday afternoon.
Escanaba improved to 12-10 on the season with its fourth straight win. The Eskymos do not play again until Feb. 20 when they travel to Hancock. That game faces off at 7:00 and it will be broadcast on WCHT-NewsTalk 600 and at www.rrnsports.com.
Click the thumbnails in the ARTICLE HIGHLIGHTS box above to see photos and videos take by Micky and Billy LaMarch, and to hear post-game comments from Trevor Denome, Luke Labre, and Coach Matt Hughes. Also hear spotlight interviews with Brayden Martineau and Dylan Ziemke.