WELLS — It appears the Escanaba Eskymos will be tested early as they enter a new hockey season.
The Eskymos, who hosted Houghton in Friday’s season-opener, resume Tuesday when they travel to Mountain View Arena in Iron Mountain to meet Kingsford at 7 p.m.
Esky has 17 on its roster, including five seniors and two juniors.
“We have a young team, but a good mix of upperclassmen,” said second-year coach Andy Johnson. “Our freshman goaltender (Cully Hayes) has been doing well. I think he’ll be able to hold his own. He’s a big kid, but he’s fast and has some quickness. He can stop pucks.”
Seniors are captains Gunner Bourdeau (defenseman) and Sawyer LaMarche (forward) and Trevor Streichert and Cody Nelson and Brayden Martineau (forwards).
“All our defensemen from last year are returning,” said Johnson. “Our defense will be led by Gunner and I think we’ll be strong on the blue line and our offense will be led by Sawyer, Brayden and Trevor. I think Swayer and Brayden will be able to put pucks away this year. We have a great group of guys and good senior leaders who are trying to get our younger guys up to speed. I think our defenseman will help Cully and keep pucks away from him.”
Juniors include defensemen Isaiah Boyce and Brett Labre and sophomore returners are defenseman Alex Schwalbach and forward Cole Carter.
“Alex is a smart hockey player,” said Johnson. “We found out he’s a good defenseman and he’s transitioning from forward. Cole has good hands. He put some time in this summer and it looks like it’s going pay off.”
Esky also has a sophomore newcomer in defenseman Davin Mattonen.
Other freshmen include forwards Nolan Bink, Graham Johnson, Ben Sands, Owen LaBonte and Keagan Braun, defenseman Carson Hughes and practice player Anthony Potvin.
“We want Anthony around,” said coach Johnson. “We’re trying to build him up for next year.”
After seeing Kingsford on the road, the Eskymos host Marquette Nov. 29 and Painesdale Jeffers Dec. 2.
“We have tough schedule,” said Johnson. “Houghton is ranked No. 2 in the state (in Division 3) in the pre-season poll and Calumet (D-3) and Marquette (D-2) are ranked in the top 10. Hancock can also be considered one of the top 10. Jeffers has a couple forwards who can play and they have strong goaltending and Kingsford has some of the best goaltending in the U.P.
“Negaunee has good goaltenders and some young guys who can play well and the same could be said for Manistique and Sault Ste. Marie. We just have good hockey throughout the U.P. It’s going to be fun.”
The remaining schedule:
Nov. 22 — at Kingsford (Iron Mountain); Nov. 29 — Marquette.
Dec. 2 — Painesdale Jeffers; Dec. 6 — at Negaunee; Dec. 9-10 — Rochester United; Dec. 16 — at Hancock; Dec. 27-28 — Alpena Showcase.
Jan. 5 — Kingsford; Jan. 7 — at Manistique; Jan. 13-14 — Traverse City Showcase; Jan. 21 — at Calumet; Jan. 26 — at Bay City Central; Jan. 27-28 — Chelsea Showcase; Jan. 31 — Negaunee.
Feb. 2 — Hancock; Feb. 7 — at DePere, Wis.; Feb. 10 — Ashwaubenon, Wis.; Feb. 14 — Manistique; Feb. 17 — Sault Ste. Marie; Feb. 18 — at Painesdale Jeffers (MTU).