Explosive Gremlins down Esky icers

Mike Mattson | Daily Press Escanaba captain Hayden Haslow (9) and Houghton captain Dawson McKay get tangled going for a loose puck in Thursday’s game.

WELLS — The Houghton Gremlins made a late flurry of goals work to their advantage Thursday night as they handed the Escanaba Eskymos a 6-2 hockey loss at the Hannahville Ice & Turf Complex.

The teams combined for four goals in the final six minutes, 28 seconds, including three by the Gremlins.

Esky trailed 3-1 after two periods, then pulled within a goal during a 5-on-3 power play on a rebound by sophomore forward Kyle Krutina 10:34 into the third.

“Luke (Labre) took a shot from the point and Kyle crashed the net as he was supposed to do,” said Esky coach Matt Hughes. “That was a nice goal. Unfortunately, we gave up three after that.”

Houghton (17-7-1), the state’s third-ranked Division 3 team, responded quickly as senior forward Dawson McKay completed a hat trick from near the right faceoff circle for a 4-2 lead at 11:15.

Mike Mattson | Daily Press Escanaba goalie Brodie Goddard saved 43 of 49 shots against Houghton Thursday night in a 6-2 loss.

“He (McKay) made a nice shot,” said Hughes. “We were able to keep them to the outside for the most part. Only, we turned the puck over too many times, which you can’t do against a good team like Houghton. Although, our guys showed some fight. We gave them a good run for a while.”

Senior forward Clayton Sayen scored from the doorstep just 44 seconds later to Houghton up 5-2 and classmate Taavi Rajala added an unassisted goal in the final 49 seconds.

“That was a big part of our game,” said Houghton coach Corey Markham. “We don’t score goals real easily. We have to work for our goals. I thought their goaltender played extremely well. I think we just wore them down tonight.”

The Gremlins, who outshot Esky 21-1 in the first period, opening the scoring on a power play marker by McKay at 9:11.

Sophomore forward Grant Wickham tied the score on a pass from freshman forward Brayden Stannard 12:32 into the second.

McKay hit his second goal from the slot 28 seconds later and sophomore defenseman Ty Halonen gave the Gremlins a two-goal cushion from behind the left faceoff circle at 13:40.

“The biggest part is we answered right away,” said Markham. “After they tied it, we got two right away. I’m real happy with our team. Our goaltender (freshman Jimmy Pietila) made a couple big saves when they had the 5-on-3. This was a real solid game for Jimmy.”

Houghton outshot Esky 49-16. Senior Brodie Goodard stopped 43 shots and freshman Jimmy Pietila had 14 saves.

“They put a lot of pressure on us,” said Hughes. “We weathered the storm in the first period. Brodie made some great saves. We wanted to slow them down. Playing defensive hockey was our intention. Only, we weren’t very defensive.”

Esky (6-18) concludes its regular season tonight by hosting Painesdale Jeffers. Houghton faces top-ranked Hancock in its Division 3 regional opener Tuesday at Michigan Tech.

The summary:

Houghton 1 2 3 — 6

Escanaba 0 1 1 — 2

First period

H — McKay (Bostwick, Bourdeau) power play, 9:11

Second period

E — Wickham (Stannard, Carne), 12:32

H — McKay (Donnelly, Halonen), 13:00

H — Halonen (Gauthier), 13:40

Third period

E — Krutina (Labre), 10:34

H — McKay (Donnelly), 11:15

H — Sayen (Gauthier, Bostwick), 11:59

H — Rajala (unassisted), 16:11

Shots on goal: Houghton 49, Escanaba 16

Power plays: Houghton 1-4, Escanaba 1-3

Goaltender saves — Houghton (Pietila 14), Escanaba (Goddard 43).