By Dan Hardenbrook

The third season of local high school varsity hockey came to a sudden end against a familiar face in Sault Ste. Marie last week. After earning an opening round playoff win last Tuesday against Kingsford with an incredible late game comeback, the magic ran out for the Manistique Emeralds against the Blue Devils and star goaltender Camden Labadie. A former Tahquamenon Area Youth Hockey Association (TAYHA) teammate of many Newberry players on the Emeralds, Labadie became one of the top senior goalies in the state. He showed why when he slowed down the Emeralds in a 4-1 win for the Soo, propelling them to this week’s MHSAA Regional Championship.

Labadie left TAYHA to play high school hockey in the Sault before Newberry players had a chance to co-op with the newly formed program in Manistique.

While Labadie was locked in, Alex Noble, Manistique’s own senior star, did everything he could to lead the upset bid inside a packed Big Bear Arena. The Blue Devils actually seemed surprised, and then became frustrated, by the fight they were facing from the tri-county co-op.

When the Blue Devils broke through to take a 1-0 lead, the Emeralds refused to lay down. Many thought the game was indeed over when the Blue Devils buried a shot with 3.2 seconds remaining in the second period and again the Emeralds answered the challenge from the heavily favored Sault squad. Austin Hinkson set up a huge goal, making multiple incredible moves before feeding Carter Lavigne for a tip in goal to get Manistique on the board.

The third period was filled with plenty of penalties, big hits, controversial calls, and high emotions. The Emeralds continued the fight until the final minutes, when the Blue Devils scored back-to-back goals to sneak away with the win.

Physically, emotionally, and mentally spent, the Emeralds skated off for the final time; their roller coaster season had come to an end.

It was also the end of the line for several senior class members, many of which were former state champions earlier in their careers for local teams. Those seniors include Newberry natives Cameron Skeans and Gavin Nutkins, who along with their classmates helped create a foundation for High School Hockey to come to the local area.

The Emeralds program now enters a pivotal offseason, where they will replace several graduating players, and are expected to return another young roster next season that will be making a major step up in competition. The program is also expected to need a new head coach, as Coach John Nutkins isn’t expected to return to the team.

A season end banquet is currently being planned to celebrate the 2023-2024 season.