WELLS - Finishing out periods proved to be the Achilles heel for the Escanaba Eskymos as they lost to Houghton 5-1 at the Wells Sports Complex on Friday.
With the score tied 1-1 near the end of the first period Houghton forward Raymond Brice split a pair of Escanaba defenders and put a goal past Nick LeMire with 8.27 seconds remaining in the period.
Gremlins head coach Corey Markham said the gave his team a boost going into the second period.
"(It's) absolutely huge, you get the goal late, it's just deflating to a team right before the period," Markham said. "Those were just huge lifts for us and you can build off that going into the next period."
The teams battled back-and-forth in the second period as both schools struggled to find the net until the final minute. The Eskymos had a man in the penalty box and had a chance at a breakaway goal but Houghton's Marcus Gloss made a save and the Gremlins went the other way as Jonathan Bostwick punched one in at the 16:04 mark to give Houghton a 3-1 lead.
Reid Pietila and Connor Hannon assisted on the goal.
Houghton 2 1 2 5
Escanaba 1 0 0 1
First period - 1, H - Hannon 2:14; 2, E - Wunder (PP) (Wood, Chaillier) 5:22; 3, H - Brice 16:52.
Second period - 4, H - Bostwick (Pietila, Hannon) 16:04.
Third period - 5, H - Donnelly (Bostwick, Brice) 1:30; 6, H - Brice 13:22.
"We had a short-handed breakaway and T.J. Myrick shot it into the goalie and then they come down and score on us," said Escanaba head coach Matt Hughes. "It's opportunities like that, it's 2-1 you score that goal you tie it up. Instead they go down on a rush and score and make it 3-1."
What was a one-goal deficit for Escanaba the majority of the game soon became a three-goal deficit as Spencer Donnelly of Houghton scored with 15:30 remaining in the third period. Hughes said he liked his team's energy for the first 34 minutes but noted that fatigue became a factor.
="It was a very good game for the first two and a half periods or so," he said. "The kids were playing hard, regardless of the score, they played hard they just made a few mistakes and a few defensive coverage mistakes and they beat us to the puck and ended up putting it in the back of the net."
"They came out with good energy. I think we got a little tired towards the end but that happens when you're in a close game. You tighten up your lines and you run the kids that are working hard and unfortunately they get tired and can't recover as fast."
Brice scored his second goal of the game with 3:38 to play to give the Gremlins a 5-1 lead. Markham said he was impressed with the senior forward's effort.
"Ray didn't have his legs like he normally does," Markham said. "Ray's extremely fast and a strong, powerful skater, but he did a great job when he did have his opportunities. He can shoot the puck great, he scored those two goals and I'm really happy with how hard he worked."
Hannon also scored a goal for Houghton, finding the net in the first period to put the Gremlins on the board first with 14:46 left to play in the first period.
Escanaba responded with its lone goal on a power play goal from Levi Wunder at the 11:38 mark.
"He plays hard every game, he truly does," Hughes said. "He's a competitor and he gives you 100 percent every shift. He finds a way to put the puck in the net, he finds a way to put the puck on his stick."
Wunder's goal came 12 seconds into the power play but the Eskymos didn't find success again playing with the upper hand as they were shut out on their next six power play opportunities.
Escanaba drops to 4-3 with the loss. They are back on the ice this Friday as they host Jeffers in the Dick Johnson/Gil Versailles Memorial Tournament. Houghton improves to 8-1 win the win. They also beat Escanaba 6-0 earlier this season. Markham said he was pleased with his team's play on the road.
"Huge win for our team coming down here, it's always a tough place to play," Markham said. "We're shorthanded, we have three guys out and I just thought we had a real solid performance all the way around. Very good goaltending and just a real disciplined team tonight."
"If you can hold Escanaba to one goal in two games that's a real big thing for us."