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Monday February 26, 2024
DOWN TO THE WIRE: Marquette Slips Past Esky

Click the thumbnails to see photos and videos from the game, and to hear post-game comments from Marquette's Tucker Welch and Doug Garrow, and Escanaba's Keagan Braun and Andy Johnson. Also click the AUDIO button to hear Alex Schwalbach's player spotlight interview.

In the end, all he could do was shake his head, stare at the Lakeview Arena ceiling, and think about how much hockey really is a game of inches.

Escanaaba sophomore Graham Johnson had just skated into the Marquette zone with six seconds left on the clock, trailing on the scoreboard, 2-1, and rifled a shot toward the top of the Redmen net. The puck glanced off the crossbar and stayed out of the Marquette net.

And, thus, Marquette escaped with a 2-1 win over Escanaba Tuesday night  in what could be a playoff rematch come late February.

“He just hit the wrong side of the crossbar,” Escanaba Coach (and Graham's dad) Andy Johnson said. “He had the goalie beat. It's just the way hockey goes some nights.”

“I thought it was gonna be tied, to be honest with you,” Marquette Coach Doug Garrow said. “How do we give up a breakaway with six seconds left in the game, you know? I think sometimes you're better off to be lucky than good, and I thought we were lucky. I think Graham, nine more times, scores nine of ten of those. Thankfully, tonight, he didn't.”

The ending capped off an entertaining game, despite having only three goals scored. It was a clean game, with just three penalties called. There were good goaltender saves, and there were good defensive plays by both teams. Just a fun game to be a part of.

“I can't ask any more of these guys,” Andy Johnson said. “They work so hard, They're so gritty. They're gritty but they have skill. I saw some things out of these guys tonight that I've never seen out of an Eskymo hockey team before, just the skill that they have, the plays they're making. They're so hard on the forecheck. We're just so close.”

“At the end of the day, the difference was probably (goalie) Parker Nevenhoven,” Garrow said. “He made a couple of good saves toward the end of the game that kept us with a one-goal lead. And, of course, Graham hits the crossbar with six seconds lef in the game.”

Marquette took a 1-0 lead at the 4:50 mark of the first period on a goal by Brody Sheldon. Escanaba goaltender Cully Hayes kept his team in the game with ten saves in that period, and in the second period, the Eskymos took over, dominating the Redmen at times. Finally, at the 11:38 mark, Keagan Braun scored to tie the game at 1-1.

“We were flying around,” Braun said. “Me and Owen (LaBonte) went down on a 2-on-1. Didn't score. Then a few shifts later, we went down again, he passed it over, and I just did a one-timer into the net. It felt amazing. Some of the guys couldn't buy a goal uif they had money. I know a lot of guys played their hearts out and I feel like we played pretty good overall.”

Marquette (2-2-0) was able to regain the lead early in the third period when Tucker Welch found the back of the net off of a C.J. Carter set-up.

“My linemate, C.J., drove it outside pretty hard,” Welch said. “He passed 'er out to me, and I was driving to the net. I just tapped 'er in. Made a good play. Feeling pretty good. It was pretty close, but we found a way to pull through and get the win. I think we're in a good position, but there's a long way to go, and we have a lot to learn.”

Escanaba had two power play chances in the third period, and could not cash in on either of them. But even strength, with five minutes left, it appeared that Nolan Bink was going to tie the game when he sent one through the blue paint. The puck was spinning toward the goal line, just inches away, when it took a right turn and was cleared.

Oh, so close, again.

“I thought it was in,” Andy Johnson said. “We were so close. Teams in the UP are not gonna want to see us by the end of the season, with the way we're improving every game.”

“It was right there on the goal line!” Braun said, shaking his head in disbelief. “We just couldn't capitalize on it.”

Escanaba (2-3-0) is back in action Friday night when they travel to L'Anse to face the Painesdale-Jeffers Jets. The broadcast from Meadowbrook Arena starts at 6:45,with the puck set to drop at 7:00.

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