WELLS - Goals were a premium at the Wells Sports Complex Saturday afternoon as the Escanaba Eskymos skated to a harder-than-it-looks 3-0 hockey victory over the Hancock Bulldogs.
After two scoreless periods, sophomore forward Charlie Zuidema finally ended the stalemate by scoring from point-blank range just 25 seconds into the third.
"The kids came out flying in the third period and that goal gave us a spark," said Esky coach Matt Hughes. "Levi (junior forward Wunder) was coming down the middle and Charlie came in from the left and was able to find the back of the net. That was a nice, solid goal."
The Eskymos gained a two-goal cushion on a power play when Wunder went top shelf from the doorstep with 2:19 remaining.
Wunder added an empty-net goal with 12 seconds left, tipping the puck away from two Hancock defensemen for a breakaway tally.
"Levi is a very skilled individual," said Hughes. "When you give him an opening, nine times of out 10 he's going to take advantage of it."
Wunder also had an apparent goal nullified 5:11 into the third when the net became dislodged.
Hancock (5-1-1) outshot Esky 12-6 in the opening frame. The Eskymos then held a 20-5 shots-on-goal advantage in the second, but were unable to get the puck past senior goaltender William Lucier.
Lucier finished with 36 saves and Esky senior Nick LeMire had 31.
"Both goaltenders had a fantastic game," said Hancock coach Dan Rouleau. "Their goaltender came up with four, five great saves. We have a good offensive team, which says a lot about him. It was pretty good up and down hockey. Only, you have to make sure you take care of No. 21 (Wunder). He's a very fast skater who knows how to finish. Escanaba has a good hockey team, but he's definitely their leader."
Both teams had excellent scoring chances in the first two periods.
With Esky trying to kill a penalty late in the first period, senior defenseman Derek Chaillier was denied on a breakaway.
Hancock senior defenseman Hayden Heikkinen was then stopped from the doorstep moments later.
In the second stanza, Esky senior forward Steve Wood was denied from the doorstep and Hancock senior forward Alex Hill was stopped from the low slot and point-blank range.
Then, a pair of Hancock slapshots hit the pipe in the final frame.
The Bulldogs also had a 5-on-3 power play for nearly two minutes in the third period, but came up empty.
"We had our chances," said Rouleau. "It was basically a one to two-goal game. This one could have gone either way. We definitely need to improve on our power play faceoffs. They kept winning the draws, which is one part of the game we're disappointed in."
Esky, which outshot the Bulldogs 39-31, hosts Houghton in a rematch Friday at 7 p.m. The Gremlins won the first meeting 6-0 in the Copper Country on Nov. 22.
"Hancock is definitely a good hockey team," said Hughes. "They have good goaltending and they're disciplined. I think this was a good confidence builder for us. Hopefully, this gives us confidence for Houghton. We have four days to prepare."
The Bulldogs are idle until Dec. 27 when they face Calumet in the opening round of the MacInnes Holiday tournament at Michigan Tech.