WELLS - A hot goaltender wasn't quite enough to stop the Escanaba Eskymos Monday night as they skated to a 2-0 hockey triumph over Jeffers in the opening round of the Dick Johnsen Memorial tournament.
Esky, which fired 36 shots at senior Richard Yeshe, finally secured its third straight victory on Josh Miller's empty-net goal with 20 seconds left to play.
"He's a good goaltender," said Esky coach Charlie Elliott. "He takes away angles and second chances very well. We knew they were going to come out and play us like that. They're a well-coached team and they match up well with us. That was a tough game."
The victory provides Esky (5-4) with a chance to defend its title today at 2:15 against L'Anse (3-2) at the Wells Sports Complex.
Jeffers (2-8) faces Negaunee (0-11) in the consolation game at noon.
Junior forward John LeMire opened the scoring 9:50 into the second period by going top shelf from the low slot on a 5-on-3 power play, the only time the Eskymos were able to beat Yeshe.
Jeffers 0 0 0 - 0
Escanaba 0 1 1 - 2
First period - No scoring
Second period - 1, ESC - John LeMire (Dan Williams, Josh Miller), 9:50
Third period - 2, ESC - Miller (unassisted), 16:40 (EN).
Saves - ESC, Austin Young 22; JEF, Richard Yeshe 35.
Power plays: Escanaba 1-1, Jeffers 0-5.
"That was really huge," said Elliott. "But we need to start putting the puck in the back of the net more often. We need to show more commitment in front of the net."
Esky had several other scoring chances, including LaMarch's breakaway midway through the second period and Devin Barton's rebound from the doorstep with four minutes left in the contest. Yeshe, however, proved equal to the challenge each time.
"Richard played an outstanding game, which is what I'd expect from a senior goaltender," said Jeffers coach David Bekkala. "He gave us an opportunity to pull him in the end and go after the tying goal. Unfortunately, it did't work out the way we hoped."
Esky especially carried the play in the second stanza when it outshot the Jets 15-5.
"They took it to us in the second period," said Bekkala. "A few penalties hurt us. Yet, I thought we controlled the play at the end of the first and beginning of the third period. Their goaltender was outstanding, too."
The Eskymos outshot Jeffers 37-22, with junior Austin Young stopping all 22 shots. Yeshe finished with 35 saves.
"Austin made some real good plays, clearing the puck from the goalmouth," said Elliott. "We also gave up some odd-man rushes, which is something we need to clean up.
"I thought Devin Barton also played real well for us. He has improved a lot. He has probably had more scoring chances than anybody on our team, only he has been a little snakebitten lately. The law of averages should come into play at some point."
The Eskymos played without freshman defenseman Quintin McCarthy, who broke his leg in a 5-1 victory over Negaunee on Dec. 18, and back-up goaltender Nick LeMire was out with the flu.
Jeffers was without freshman forward David Pollard, who's nursing a knee injury.