Salvaging a draw

HOUGHTON – In hindsight before the season began, it may not have been the wisest move for Houghton Gremlins hockey coach Corey Markham to schedule a game against Escanaba the day after their Wing Ding matchup with the Hancock Bulldogs. But Saturday, the Eskymos were in town, and the Gremlins looked tired early. However, they got stronger as the game went along, forcing overtime and nearly coming away with a win, as the two teams skated to a 3-3 tie.

Markham was disappointed, but not surprised by his team’s early efforts.

“Early on we weren’t very good,” said Markham. “We didn’t have the same intensity and you are not going to. We weren’t bearing down and competing as hard as we were capable of.”

For head coach Matt Hughes and the Eskymos, the game plan was simple: jump on the Gremlins early and often as they were well-rested, while the Gremlins had just lost 1-0 to the Bulldogs several hours earlier.

The Eskymos accomplished much of that game plan during the opening 17 minutes of play. They held a 15-2 shot advantage after 17 minutes of play.

“I thought overall we played well,” said Hughes. “We knew they played a hard game [Friday] night. Part of our plan was to jump on them quick and try to tire them out over the course of the game, which I think we did for the most part. We just couldn’t cash in on a couple of quality chances we had.”

However, thanks to a pass from assistant captain Wyatt Liston that found its way onto the stick of co-captain Reid Pietila in the slot with no one around him, the Gremlins led from the 13:48 mark until three minutes into the second period.

“We were fortunate to get the goal,” said Markham. “Getting outshot that bad and to lead, we were fortunate to get the lead. I thought we got better and better as the game went on.”

With the game later tied in the third period, 2-2, the Eskymos took their second lead of the night when Parker LaMarch scored his second of the game when he knocked a rebound past Gremlins starter Dmitri Kochan at 1:38.

“It definitely puts you at ease a little bit,” said Hughes. “It happened very quick. There was a lot of hockey to play. It was a good, hard-fought game.”

Needing a response, the Gremlins (12-8-3, 4-5-2 GLHSC) got it a couple of shifts later when Liston got the puck along the right boards. Junior Jacob Kruse cut to the back door, and Liston wired a pass right on his stick. Kruse tipped the puck behind Eskymos goaltender Jack Valentine at 3:05 for his second goal of the game.

Shortly after the goal, Kruse had a chance at the hat trick as he skated the puck into the slot, but while his shot beat Valentine, it did not beat the post. Five minutes later, Kruse took a pass from Liston while skating through center ice. He drove in on Valentine, but his backhand shot was stopped.

Liston had a golden opportunity of his own with four minutes left in regulation, but his tip of a shot from freshman Kevin Bostwick was stopped. Liston had another chance with 36 seconds left after Kruse passed the puck between his own legs out front. Liston’s one-timer was stopped with Valentine’s foot.

The Eskymos (14-5-4 overall, 6-2-2 GLHSC) had one good scoring chance in overtime off the stick of Calvin Pinar, but Kochan, who made 32 saves for the game, was there to make the stop.

Less than a minute later, Liston fed Kruse for a shot that snuck through Valentine’s legs, but skittered wide of the net after. Liston fed Kruse a couple of shifts later in the slot, but again Valentine was there to make the stop.

After Markham called a timeout, the Gremlins had another great chance when senior Alan Jurmu attempted to feed sophomore Dawson McKay in the slot. The puck ended up on goal, but Valentine was ready for the quick redirection off his teammate.

In the dying seconds, Pietila was set with the puck in the slot, but again Valentine kicked the shot away.

The Eskymos tied the game at 1-1 when Chris LeMire found the back of the net as he cut through the slot 3:15 into the second period.

McKay took a penalty just 13 seconds later, and the Eskymos struck again as LaMarch one-timed an unfortunate bounce home at 3:52.

The Gremlins had a power play midway through the period and eventually found the tying goal when Kruse knocked a rebound home off a shot from McKay at 9:26.

Looking to keep the game tied Kochan made four key stops over the remainder of the period. The first was off the stick of Hunter LaMarch. The second was off Parker LaMarch as he skated down the right boards a wristed a shot on goal. LeMire was right there for the rebound, but again, Kochan made the stop.

The final chance Escanaba had in the second period was perhaps Kochan’s best stop as Jack Williams skated down the right wing and flung a quick pass across the crease to Hunter LaMarch. LaMarch one-timed the pass towards the goal, but Kochan kicked his right leg out and knocked the puck away with his right skate.