Late Flivs’ surge ends Esky hockey season
WELLS — A valiant effort was given Thursday night, but it wasn’t quite enough for Escanaba to extend its hockey season.
Kingsford scored twice within 52 seconds in the third stanza as it handed the Eskymos a 3-2 loss in a Division 2 pre-regional contest at the Hannahville Ice & Turf Complex.
The Fiivvers (18-7-1) advance to the regional final at St. Ignace where they’ll meet Traverse City Central Saturday at 2 p.m. (EDT). Esky finished 8-19.
“Sometimes you win a game by gutting it out,” said Kingsford coach Dennis Murvich. “We had an emotional, physical game in Iron Mountain Tuesday night (in a 4-3 overtime victory over Marquette). Sometimes your legs are spent after a game like that. We told the guys they’re going to have to have better legs on Saturday. They need to get some rest.”
The Flivvers secured the decision in the final three seconds when senior forward Pete Ropiak won a faceoff deep in the Escanaba zone, right after they used their time-out.
“We told the guys to get the puck into the corner,” said Murvich. “The benefit is you don’t have to move your feet too much. You just need puck clearance. They played us tough at our place (in a 3-2 overtime victory Feb. 13) the last time. We knew this was going to be a battle.”
Esky took a 2-1 lead on a power play with 16 seconds left in the second period when senior forward Blaine Reinhart redirected a shot from the left point by senior defensemen Hayden Haslow.
“To score that late in the period, that’s a big goal,” said Esky coach Matt Hughes. “That was a good momentum builder. We were able to create some scoring chances in the second period, but we knew a 1-goal lead wasn’t going to be enough against that team. We put some pressure on them, only we weren’t able to capitalize.”
Sophomore forward Reece Fortner tied the contest from the slot 10 minutes, 42 seconds into the third frame, and a one-timer from the left point by junior forward Daunte Fortner at 11:34 sent the Flivvers ahead to stay.
“On their tying goal, we missed an assignment and left Brodie (Goddard) out to dry,” said Hughes. “Brodie made some great saves. They’ve been a real good hockey team all year. We knew we had to play almost perfect to beat them.”
Senior Dempsey Lauridsen scored from the slot 8:17 into the opening frame, giving Kingsford a 1-0 lead.
Junior forward Joe Jacobson tied the game from the slot on a power play at 3:32, setting the stage for Reinhart’s go-ahead goal.
The Flivvers outshot the Eskymos 17-6 in the third frame and finished with a 38-18 shots on goal advantage. Goddard stopped 35 shots and Kingsford sophomore Evan Hedtke had 16 saves.
“It’s unfortunate we gave up that many shots,” said Hughes. “Our guys came out quick. We played Kingsford hard at their place the last time and I think that helped us tonight. Our guys played two competitive playoff games. I really want to commend our guys for their effort. They showed up and tried to better themselves and the team.”
Kingsford 1 0 2 — 3
Escanaba 0 2 0 — 2
K — Lauridsen (D. Fortner), 8:17
E — Jacobson (Haslow, Stannard on power play), 3;32
E — Reinhart (Wickham, Haslow on power play), 16:44
K — R. Fortner (D. Fortner), 10:42
K — D. Fortner (Weed), 11:34
Shots on goal: Kingsford 38, Esky 18
Power plays: Escanaba 2-3, Kingsford 0-2
Goaltender saves: Kingsford (Hedtke 16), Escanaba (Goddard 35).