STUNNING RALLY! Eskymos Beat Emeralds Again

Click the thumbnails to see photos and videos taken by Liz Taylor, and to hear post-game comments from Nolan Bink, Graham Johnson, and Coach Andy Johnson. Also click the AUDIO buttons to hear Graham Johnson's player spotlight interview, and an interview with Assistant Coach Mike Sands.

131 seconds.


That's how much longer the Manistique High School hockey team needed to hang on Tuesday night to get the program's first-ever win over the Escanaba Eskymos. The Emeralds, behind the super-hot play of goaltender Alex Noble, and a pair of opportunistic goals, had a 2-1 lead over their rivals as the clock ticked down.


Escanaba Coach Andy Johnson had called a time out with 2:50 left on the clock, and things turned around from there for the Eskymos.


The Eskymos dug deep, roared back, and ripped the hearts out of the Emeralds with three straight goals in those final 131 seconds, leading to a 4-2 Escanaba victory. It was another stinging defeat for Manistique against their rivals, having also lost a pair of overtime games as well in each of the past two years.


First, the Eskymos tied the game on a Graham Johnson goal on a rebound in close with 2:11 (131 seconds left). Then as the play continued, the Emeralds were caught running around in their own zone and ended up taking a penalty with 46 seconds left on the clock.


And off that face off, won by Johnson, Nolan Bink ripped a low shot from the rim of the circle that Noble never saw thanks to Cale Carter's big body in front of him. It went in, and the Eskymos celebrated their third straight down-to-the wire victory.


An empty-net goal by Johnson sealed the game with eight seconds left, and the Eskymos got their record back to the .500 mark at 8-8.


Earlier, the Emeralds dominated play for most of the first period, with Austin Hinkson making several moves to score a dazzling goal to put his team in the lead. But later in that period, Carter, the hero of Saturday's overtime win over Plymouth, jumped on a loose puck in his own zone, raced in all alone up-ice, and floated one past Noble to tie the game at 1-1.


The second period was completely dominated by the Eskymos, but Noble would not budge in the Manistique net. Even though Manistique had two power plays in that period, the Eskymos outskated the Emeralds, and outshot them, 13-4.


Noble's best piece of work came late in the period when Johnson and Bink went in on a 2-on-0. They ran the play correctly, but Noble made the huge save when Bink couldn't get it over his pad.


In the third period, when Blake Walther scored a goal from long range to give Manistique the 2-1 lead, it looked like the Emeralds, who had nearly double the number of players on the bench, might just get that signature win over their biggest rivals.


But, then come those final 131 seconds, and the Eskymos survived.


Escanaba outshot Manistique, 39-23, with Noble stopping 35 of the 38 shots he faced. Even in defeat, he earned the game's second star. Cully Hayes stopped 21 of 23 shots for the Eskymos.


Johnson ended up with a hand in all four goals...two goals and two assists. The sophomore winger was clearly the game's first star, and he was afforded the team's “hard hat” award as well. And Bink, with the game-winning goal, was the #3 star. Ben Sands quietly had a solid game as well, with a ton of ice time and collecting two assists. And Carter added an assist to his first period goal that got the Eskymos on the board,.


The Escanaba team, fighting through a short bench and quite a few illnesses, managed somehow to beat a Manistique team that was highly-motivated, had a hot goalie between the pipes, and was sporting wins over teams like Dearborn Divine Child, Detroit Country Day, Utica Eisenhower, and Big Rapids.


But for 131 seconds, none of that mattered. And the Eskymos entered a ten-day break feeling mighty good about their nailbiting wins over Bay City, Plymouth, and now, Manistique.


Escanaba returns to action on Jan. 26 at the Michigan Public High School Hockey Showcase in downstate Chelsea. The Eskymos will face two downstate teams: Rockford and Grosse Ile, at that major statewide event.


Manistique (6-6-0) will be on the road this weekend, with games at Muskegon Mona Shores and Grand Rapids Christian.

LISTEN: Graham Johnson #1 star interview
LISTEN: Nolan Bink #3 star interview
LISTEN: Andy Johnson post-game comments
LISTEN: Mike Sands intermission interview
LISTEN: Radio call of game's final minute
LISTEN: Graham Johnson player spotlight interview