Hockey is a game of creating opportunities and the Escanaba hockey team did a good job of that on Saturday.
Levi Wunder scored twice and the Eskymos skated to their second straight victory, topping Alpena 3-0 at Northern Lights Arena.
The Eskymos (2-1) overcame some early penalties and Nick LaMire made 15 saves, including a first-period penalty shot as Escanaba outshot the Wildcats 36-15 and kept Alpena netminder Jesse Boilore busy all afternoon.
News Photo by James Andersen
Alpena’s Karsten Alexander (14) fights for the puck with Escanaba’s Nick Aird during the second period of a hockey game on Saturday at Northern Lights Arena.
"I though the kids played hard. We hard to fight through some adversity with killing off penalties, but we killed them off and got back to work and ended up popping in a few goals," Escanaba coach Matt Hughes said.
Both teams went scoreless in the first period, but the Wildcats (2-3) got an opportunity when Jared Plume was awarded a penalty shot after an Escanaba player covered the puck with his hand in the crease. Plume skated in and tried to beat LeMire through the five-hole, but LeMire came up with the stop.
"Penalty shots are 50-50; they're tough. There's a lot of pressure on the shooter and the goalie so it's just an opportunity, another in a game," Alpena coach Pete Doubek said. "The more opportunities you can create, odds are you're going to end up on top."
Wunder put the Eskymos on the board less than five minutes into the middle frame, getting assists from Stephen Wood and Calvin Pinar. Wood added a goal at the 11:03 mark with an assist from Blaine Borman after he stole the puck and faked out Boilore to put a shot past him.
Boilore, who turned in a 25-save performance in Friday's 5-4 overtime loss, came up with 33 saves on Saturday and did his best to slow down a potent Escanaba offense.
"Jesse kept us in. These are probably two of his best games I've seen him play in his high school career," Doubek said. "If he keeps playing like that, that's going to help us a ton."
A pair of late penalties in the second period gave Alpena a 5-on-3 advantage for a full minute between the end of the second period and the start of the third, but the Wildcats were unable to convert.
Escanaba took two other penalties in the third period, but managed to stay on the offensive. After Quintin McCarthy took a five-minute major penalty for checking from behind with 5:39 left, the Eskymos got a few scoring opportunities, while keeping Alpena off the board.
In the last five minutes, Wunder stole the puck in the Eskymos' defensive zone and skated in on a breakaway chance, but sent a shot wide of the net.
He lit the lamp again with 1:16 to play, shooting the puck into an empty net after the Wildcats got caught out of position for a shorthanded goal. Wood earned an assist.
After losing their season opener against Houghton, the Eskymos now have a pair of wins to hang their hats on and will look to keep that momentum going into Tuesday's home opener against Marquette.
It's always good to get to wins on the road. It just shows that they're improving and getting better and we'll go from there," Hughes said.
After winning the Huron Shores Tournament last weekend, Alpena went 0-3 this week and returns to the ice at Cadillac on Friday. Doubek hopes to use the few extra days of practice to shore up some basic things before the Wildcats' Big North Conference opener.
"Escanaba's a great team, quick and so we can take nothing away from them. We lost to a good team and they went down battling," Doubek said. "Even though today was a grind, no one gave up which is promising for the future."
James Andersen can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5694. Follow James on Twitter @ja_alpenanews.