Hodags’ third-period flurry ends hopes of a 3-0 start
The Medford Raiders fought back from a 2-0 first-period deficit and had visions of a 3-0 start to the hockey season when they grabbed a 3-2 lead over Rhinelander Tuesday with 11 seconds left in the second period.
But a letdown off the ensuing face-off led to a stunning goal by Hodag Connor Pequet just six seconds later and Rhinelander used a four-goal barrage midway through the third period to drop the Raiders 7-3 in their Great Northern Conference opener at the Simek Recreation Center.
Pequet wound up with a hat trick for Rhinelander, who improved to 1-1 in the GNC and 3-2 overall.
While the third period was a tough one for his Raiders, Medford head coach Galen Searles said the team’s resurgence in the middle of the game was good to see.
“They have great puck handlers, several of them, especially (Pequet),” Searles said. “We seemed to be a little overwhelmed in the first period and in the second period, we found out we could play with these guys a little bit and confi dence got better. When that happens, everything gets better. The passing gets better. Kids get in better positions.”
In the first period, Rhinelander’s quickness was the story as the Hodags got to the loose pucks and held their offensive zone well. Pequet broke the ice by flipping in a rebound off a shot by Daniel Zuiker 9:56 into the period. Pequet then set up Harlan Wojtusik, who carried the puck from the blue line to just outside the crease and beat Medford goaltender AJ Adlemen low for a 2-0 lead at 12:42.
“We were making a lot of long passes against Merrill (Friday) and I said those long passing lanes aren’t going to be open against this team and they noticed that,” Searles said. “We’ve got to come back and support our defense a little bit more rather than hanging out and kind of cherry picking at the blue line. Our D didn’t have as much time to make decisions and pass it. That was another thing we talked about. You gotta get back to the puck as fast as you can when it gets dumped in because this team is not going to give you time to look and find somebody open.”
An interference penalty gave the Raiders their first power play of the game and the jolt they needed to start their comeback. At 15:49, defenseman Austin Waldhart set up Carter Pernsteiner in the slot and he beat Hodag net minder Seth Stafford to get Medford on the board. Connor Gowey was also credited with an assist on the score.
Pernsteiner set up Colton Gowey for the equalizer 4:36 into the second period. After an exchange of penalties late in the period, Medford had a manadvantage for 1:31 and used it wisely. At 16:49 heavy pressure at the net resulted in Colton Gowey’s second goal of the game and eighth of the young season.
“They really were really pumped in the second period when they pumped in a couple of goals,” Searles said. “That was a lot of fun.”
The tying goal, however, gave Rhinelander momentum going into the second intermission and they brought it back out of the locker room in the third period. The Hodags outshot Medford 16-6 in the final 17 minutes and got the go-ahead goal at 6:50 from Zuiker with assists from Jake Losch and Pequet. Pequet made it 6-4 at 10:45 and started a three-goal flurry that lasted just 40 seconds. Harrison Shinners and Losch got the last two goals at 11:05 and 11:25.
Stafford collected 19 saves in his winning effort. Adleman had 35 saves for Medford. Both teams had three power plays. Medford had the game’s only two power-play goals.
Medford gets its ultimate test of the regular season Friday when it visits Northland Pines, who is the number-one team in this week’s state rankings. The Eagles are 3-0 and have averaged just over 10 goals per game. They are 2-0 in the GNC with wins of 12-2 over Rhinelander and 12-0 over Tomahawk.
The Raiders get always-tough Antigo at home on Tuesday. Both GNC games face off at 7 p.m.
Raiders 5, BlueJacks 0
Medford’s home opener was a rous- ing success Friday as Pernsteiner scored twice, including a second-period penalty shot and the defense allowed just nine shots on goal in a 5-0 shutout win over the Merrill-Wausau East-Newman Catholic co-op.
The Raiders dominated control of the puck and put 43 shots on BlueJacks’ goalie Truman Shull.
With his third shutout since taking over as Medford’s top goalie last season, Adleman became the school’s record holder, surpassing the two earned by Jason Flora in the early 2000s.
Searles said he continued to be impressed by Medford’s improvements in passing the puck, a major factor in the Raiders’ ability to hold the zone. They outshot the BlueJacks 11-2 in the first period and had several good scoring chances. The Raiders argued a shot late in the period actually went into the net, but the officials did not agree and another that certainly found the back of the net was ruled to have come after the buzzer sounded to end the period.
It didn’t take long to finally capitalize in the second period as Colton Gowey’s shot from close range at the 1:50 mark trickled through Shull’s pads and over the goal line. Pernsteiner had the assist on the play.
At 6:13, Pernsteiner was interfered with from behind on a breakaway shot, which resulted in a penalty shot. Attacking from Shull’s left side, Pernsteiner’s shot got past him to give the Raiders a 2-0 lead that stood into the third period.
In the final 17 minutes, the Raiders’ constant offensive pressure finally broke down the BlueJacks, who had battled Antigo to a 2-2 overtime tie the night before.
Off a Blaine Seidl assist, Waldhart rifled a wrist shot from near the right face-off circle that got under the crossbar at 2:51. Pernsteiner got his second goal of the night at 12:42, cleaning up the rebound after Shull made the initial save on Gowey’s breakaway chance. Brayden Machon also was credited with an assist.
Seidl closed the scoring 32 seconds later off a centering pass from Connor Gowey.
Shull finished with 38 saves for the BlueJacks, who fell to 1-2-1. There were no power-play goals in the game. Medford had seven chances and the Merrill Co-op had five.