Late start challenges Escanaba icers
WELLS — It will be a quick transition for several Escanaba High School hockey players as they open their season tonight.
The Eskymos host Marquette at the Hannahville Ice & Turf Complex in a 7 p.m. contest, just 10 days after some concluded their football season in the Division 4 state semifinals.
“We’re hoping to find some identity,” said coach Matt Hughes. “It’s hard to tell where you stand until you get a few games under your belt. We couldn’t pick our team until the football season was over.”
The Eskymos have 21 on their roster. Among them are seven defensemen, 14 forwards and two goaltenders. There is no jayvee team this year.
Leading the defensemen is fourth-year senior and team captain Hayden Haslow, among the gridders who had a shorter pre-season.
“We’ll rely an Hayden for leadership,” said Hughes. “He’s very passionate about hockey and leads by example.”
Additional defensemen include juniors Chris Sliva (assistant captain) and Bryce Cooper, sophomores Luke Labre, Grant LaMarche and Braden Reinhard and freshman Kaden Hayes.
Topping the list of forwards are senior returners Blain Reinhard and Aaron Young, who was a back-up goaltender last season, and Justin VanDrese.
Junior returners are assistant captain Christer Carne and Joe Jacobson. Joining them are Zeke Strand and Jake LaFave, who played on the jayvee team a year ago.
“Christer is not real vocal, but leads by example,” said Hughes. “We’re also looking for Blain to provide leadership this year.”
Sophomore forward Grant Wickham is also an assistant captain, with Ethan Silverstone also returning. Classmate Kyle Krutina has moved up from jayvees, with freshman Brayden Stannard and Spencer Bourdeau joining the varsity ranks.
“Grant put a lot of time in during the off-season,” said Hughes. “He’s very passionate about the game and is ready to go. Brayden is a power forward and a skilled player. Hockey is also his passion. We’re looking forward to him joining the squad.”
Senior Brodie Goddard is the team’s main goaltender, with sophomore Trevor Denome as back-up.
“Brodie had some big games for us last year,” said Hughes. “We’re looking for him to carry that over into his senior season. Having a senior goalie is always a strength. Trevor played on the jayvee team last year and is excited about making the jump to varsity.
“We have some guys who can skate very well, read the ice, be creative and make plays,” said Hughes. “We also have a few guys who can shoot the puck very well. Right now we have nothing to compare with beside ourselves. We need more time together.”
After tonight’s match-up with Marquette, the Eskymos host Gaylord Friday at 7.
“All the (Great Lakes) conference games are big,” Hughes said. Every team in our conference is competitive.”
Also on Esky’s schedule are showcase events at Traverse City, Chelsea and Sault Ste. Marie.
“They match you up with teams based on your record,” said Hughes.
Nov. 28 — Marquette.
Dec. 1 — Gaylord; Dec. 4 — at Negaunee; Dec. 15 — at Houghton; Dec. 16 — at Painesdale Jeffers; Dec. 29-30 — at Alpena.
Jan. 9 — Sault Ste. Marie; Jan 12-13 — at Traverse City; Jan. 16 — at Marquette; Jan. 18 — Calumet; Jan. 25 — at Hancock; Jan. 27 — Hancock; Jan. 30 — Negaunee.
Feb. 1 — Kingsford; Feb. 8-10 — at Chelsea; Feb. 13 — at Kingsford (Iron Mountain); Feb. 16-17 — at Sault Ste. Marie; Feb. 20 — at Calumet; Feb. 22 — Houghton; Feb. 23 — Painesdale Jeffers.