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Tuesday June 25, 2024
DE JA VU: Eskymos Steal Victory From Manistique

Click the thumbnails to see photos and video highlights, and to hear post-game comments from Escanaba Coach Andy Johnson, and players Graham Johnson, Carson Hughes, and Cully Hayes. Also click the AUDIO buttons to hear player spotlight interviews with Alex Schwalbach and Isaiah Boyce.

If you're a fan of the classic Peanuts cartoons, you know about Charlie Brown and the football.

As he's about to kick the football, Lucy pulls the ball away at the last split-second, and Charlie ends up falling on his face.

This happens over and over and over again, and for Charlie Brown, it's always a case of “oh, so close”.


You might be want to call the Manistique Emeralds hockey team the “Charlie Brown of U.P. Hockey” whenever they face the Escanaba Eskymos. So close, so many times, but never being rewarded for their hard work.

Tuesday night in Manistique, it looked like the Emeralds might get to finally kick that football, with a big crowd inside the Little Bear West Arena, a 1-0 lead with less than seven minutes to play, and goaltender Alex Noble stopping everything.

But Escanaba found a way to win, again, this time, 4-1, with two late goals 98 seconds apart, along with a pair of empty-net goals.

And Eskymo sophomore Graham Johnson is the “Lucy” of this story. Johnson scored a pretty highlight reel goal with 6:40 left in the game to tie the contest at 1-1, and then 98 seconds later,

Owen LaBonte won a face off, passed to Carson Hughes, and Hughes rifled home the go-ahead goal. Just like that, Escanaba had a 2-1 lead.

And then the very second the Emeralds pulled their goaltender to try to get the equalizer, sure enough, the puck ended up on the stick of Lucy...uh, Graham Johnson. And from 150 feet away he sent a shot into the empty net with 1:14 left, making it a 3-1 game.


And seconds later, with the Emeralds net empty again, there was Johnson again with the puck. This time, he passed it to Cale Carter for the tap-in empty-net goal. It was Carter's 50th point in an Eskymo uniform, so they quickly went to get the puck for the big guy's trophy case.

This loss must be the most hard for Manistique to accept, and it is in a long-line of “oh, so close” moments for the Emeralds against Escanaba. Just a few weeks ago, the Eskymos were trailing by a goal in the final two minutes when they scored three times to steal away a 4-2 victory at the Wells Sports Complex.

And in both 2022 and 2023, the Eskymos and Emeralds battled to overtime in games played here in Manistique. The Eskymos won both times. So close, again, so far away for the Emeralds.

Manistique carried the play through much of the first period, with Carter Deatsman cashing in on an Eskymo turnover to score on a 2-on-1 break, giving the Emeralds a 1-0 lead.

Manistique had two more great chances on breakways that period, but Cameron Skeans hit the pipe on his chance, and Eskymo goaltender Cully Hayes stopped Gavin Nutkins to keep it 1-0.


It stayed 1-0 in the second period thanks to another stellar period by Noble in the Emeralds net, and even moreso in the third period, as the Eskymos had the puck the majority of the time in the Manistique zone.

It looked like Noble might be able to steal a big win for his team and make that 1-0 lead hold up, but then Johnson snatched the football away. Again.

And Escanaba all but clinched a home playoff game by improving to 11-11-0 on the season, and sweeping the season series with two narrow victories. Manistique fell to 9-10-0 on the season.

Escanaba plays its final regular season home game this Friday night against West DePere.

Manistique faces Negaunee Thursday night.

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