WELLS - Senior goaltender Austin Young, like his fellow Escanaba Eskymo teammates, had never beaten the Marquette Redmen.
That drought finally ended here Thursday, in a Division II regional semifinal no less, with the Eskymos winning 3-1.
That monkey-off-the-back victory finally came here at Wells Sports Complex, placing it among the greatest moments in Eskymo hockey history.
Keith Shelton | Daily Press
The Escanaba Eskymos pile around goaltender Austin Young, hidden somewhere in the group, Thursday after stunning Marquette 3-1 in a Division 2 playoff game. (Daily Press photo by Keith Shelton)
It is the first win over the Redmen since 2005. The only previous playoff win against the Redmen came in 1989. Marquette has an overwhelming 83-15-4 record in the series that began in 1984.
The Eskymos (13-12-1) play for their first regional championship at 1:30 Saturday in Gaylord, facing Traverse City Central.
Young simply willed his way toward the history books. If he had eyes on the puck, it wasn't getting past him. Making acrobatic diving saves, being lightning quick with the glove hand, he had 34 saves. Later he savored victory with his teammates like never before.
"Austin Young saved us tonight. The guys (defense) cleared out the house and did a very good job in our zone," said Esky coach Tim McCarthy, who is 1-1-1 against the Redmen in his first season.
"Marquette (12-10-3) put so much pressure on us. They screened the goalie and were just relentless. Our guys just kept going and they wanted it more."
Playing in front of easily the largest crowd of the season, the Eskymos weathered an early flurry by killing off a penalty in the opening minutes.
Ryan LaMarch rocketed home a quick wrister from Dan Williams midway through the first period and the Eskymos took a 1-0 lead into the second period.
After killing off two more penalties, Cody Cousineau chased after a loose puck and raced up the center firing a shot at Marquette goaltender Evan Kyle. Kyle gave up the rebound and Ryan Meintz hammered away, jabbing at the puck until it finally went in and the Eskymos led 2-0 just 5:56 into the second period.
Minutes later, the Eskymos killed off yet another penalty and with under a minute to go in the period appeared to have a stranglehold on the game. But with the Eskymos having control of the puck, Hunter Bradford inexplicably took a slashing penalty in the opposite zone.
This time, the Redmen took advantage, with Forest Folker taking a quick feed off the tip of his stick and sailed it past Young with 23 seconds remaining.
"I thought when we scored that one, that we'd get more," said Marquette coach Joe Papin. "But just because you out-shoot them, doesn't mean you'll win.
"We knew Austin Young was a good goaltender, but in previous meetings he wasn't as good as he was tonight. We got 35 shots on him and only one goal. He was the difference maker tonight."
In the final two minutes of the third period, Escanaba kept the pressure on. All doubt was removed when Nick Vandermissen and Ben Lasecki rushed the net on a 2 on 1 situation. Kyle gave up the rebound and the Eskymos swarmed the net. Lasecki emerged with the goal and the celebration was on.
Afterward, McCarthy was certain this night was something special indeed.
"We've been so close all year with some of the top teams in the state and to finally win here, in this building is awesome," he said.
"The guys were emotional, it was a big crowd and the kids are just pumped. For the seniors this is their first win against Marquette."
Papin expressed disappointment but couldn't fault his team for their effort.
"I'm extremely proud of our guys. Even down by two goals, they kept their composure. I thought it was a pretty even game and several times I thought we were ready to take control but didn't."
Esky forward Bryce Wolf didn't play due to what McCarthy called " a serious shoulder tear." He doesn't expect him back in the post-season.
"I'm just so proud of the guys. We've had our ups and downs this season. The penalty kill was huge tonight. A lot of kids stepped up and focused on what to do."
Marquette 0 1 0 - 1
Escanaba 1 1 1 - 3
E - LaMarch (Williams), 6:15
E - Meintz (Cousineau), 5:56
M - Folker (Nordquist, Carriere) (PP), 14:37
E - Lesecki (Vandermissen), 13:53
Shots on goal:
Marquette 13 9 13 - 35
Escanaba 9 9 10 - 28
Escanaba - Young (34 saves); Marquette - Kyle (25 saves)