Wildcats earn weekend sweep over Escanaba

News Photo by James Andersen Alpena players Mitch Agius (24), Lars MacArthur, center, and Charlie Halleck celebrate after Halleck's first period goal during a hockey game on Saturday at Northern Lights Arena.

The Alpena High hockey team made enough plays to win on Saturday and ended 2017 on a high note.

Charlie Halleck scored his first goal of the season and Nate Cosbitt and Lars MacArthur both scored as the Wildcats defeated Escanaba 3-1 on Saturday to pull off a weekend sweep at Northern Lights Arena.

Alpena (7-3-3) defeated Escanaba 4-1 on Friday.

Matched up in another physical contest with the Eskymos (2-5), the Wildcats scored a goal in each period and scored the game’s last two goals to edge Escanaba and stretch their winning streak to three.

Alpena also improved to 6-2-1 at home this season.

News Photo by James Andersen Alpena's Conner Allen (10) jostles with Escanaba's Grant LaMarche during the first period of a hockey game on Saturday at Northern Lights Arena.

“Today was a grittier game. I thought Escanaba came out and really made it difficult for us. They did a good job of finishing their checks, so we just had to play a gritty game where we had to make little plays and when we had chances we had to capitalize,” Alpena coach Chris Limback said. “I thought we did, it was a great sweep for our team this weekend.”

Alpena broke a 1-1 tie with 1:49 left in the middle frame. Cosbitt blasted a shot from the high slot with a screener in front and the puck found its way past Escanaba goaltender Brodie Goddard for a power-play goal. Colby Plowman and Kyle VanDusen earned assists.

MacArthur put Alpena up by a pair with 5:42 left in the game, banging in a rebound after a shot by Conner Allen for his sixth goal of the year. Allen and Cosbitt earned assists on the tally.

Alpena outshot the Eskymos 24-17 and Cooper Black made 16 saves to earn the win for Alpena.

Escanaba played better than it did Friday and came out on the offensive to start the second period. The Eskymos were finally rewarded with 4:32 left when Kyle Krutina scored. Krutina and line mate Ethan Silverstone caught Alpena in a 2-on-1 situation and Krutina took a pass from Silverstone to fire the puck past Black.

News Photo by James Andersen Alpena's Conner Allen prepares to shoot during the first period of a hockey game on Saturday at Northern Lights Arena.

“I think we had a much better effort than yesterday. We didn’t capitalize on a few chances and we had a couple breakdowns and they took advantage of them,” Escanaba coach Matt Hughes said. “We shook up the lines a little bit to start the game and then we changed them again to start the second period and it seemed to give us a little life.”

Black came up big for the Wildcats in the closing seconds of the middle frame, denying a shot by Christer Carne as he skated in on a breakaway.

The game’s opening frame saw a lot of back-and-forth play as both teams nearly matched one another in shots on goal. Halleck put the Wildcats on the board with 56.7 seconds left, tapping in a rebound for his first goal of the season. Mitch Agius earned an assist.

With three consecutive wins and four wins in their last five games, the Wildcats have plenty to celebrate. But with some tough games coming up, Limback is hoping his team will keep pushing to get better. Alpena heads to Sault Ste. Marie next weekend for a tournament and will play Plymouth, a Division II ranked team, on Friday.

“I think there’s a lot more in us and it’s just going to get everybody to push to look to get more out of each and every (player), but I’m happy where we are finishing up 2017,” Limback said.