RHS cut down by Bluejacks in WIAA opener
STAR JOURNAL REPORT
It took overtime before the Rhinelander High School varsity boys hockey team would be eliminated in WIAA tournament action.
The No. 9-seeded Hodags overcame a two-goal deficit when they were even with No. 8-seeded Merrill/Wausau East after the first 51 minutes before losing 3-2 in the extra session of the tournament’s opening round at the Smith Center.
“The overtime period saw us having it in their zone and getting some good looks when a shot from our defenseman was blocked and went the other way,” said RHS head coach M.J. Laggis. “They got a stick on it in our end and slid it to the back door and scored and that was it.”
The Bluejacks, who outshot the Hodags 8-4 in the first 17 minutes, scored twice in the opening period.
“We made some adjustments, lineup wise, and came out in the second and played better,” Laggis said.
Though Merrill/Wausau East outshot RHS 8-7 in the second period, the only goal was scored by the Hodags’ Matthias Schneider, who cut the lead to 2-1 going into the final 17 minutes of regulation.
“We played well in the third and had the better of the chances for sure,” Laggis said.
The Hodags’ Ethan Pequet scored the equalizer and the third period’s only goal to keep the game going.
The Bluejacks, who hadn’t registered a goal since the opening period, picked up the game-winner in overtime to advance to the tournament’s second round Thursday against top-seeded Wausau West at the Marathon County Ice Arena.
RHS, which had also lost 4-0 to Merrill/Wausau East in the regular-season matchup, ended the 2016-17 campaign 8-15 overall.
“I am very disappointed it’s over,” Laggis said. “We battled adversity all year long with the two-week break for whooping cough over Christmas, which led to a 21-day stretch without a game, to sickness, weather issues, and just the fact that we are so young up front and battled to put pucks in the net.
“Our seniors showed great leadership the last two months and our locker room was a really fun place to be. It was a great group of kids that continued to improve despite the issues we faced. I will really miss those seniors and wish them success.”
Laggis noted the Hodags’ key graduation losses from the varsity squad will include captains Logan Wild and Dylan Roeser as well as Pequet, Tyler Blomdahl, Tyler Kolasa and Tait Spencer.
Bluejacks 3, Hodags 2 (OT)
Hodags 0 1 1 0 – 2
Bluejacks 2 0 0 1 – 3