The Hodag boys hockey team opened up their season Tuesday night taking on the Marshfield Tigers at the Rhinelander Ice Arena. The Hodags consistently pressured the Tigers throughout the night, but couldn't break through to the back of the net, ultimately losing by a score of 6-0.
The Tigers offense came out swinging, picking up an early lead 2-0 following one period of play. The Hodag defense clamped down and only allowed one goal in the second, before fatigue and desperation played into a three goal 3rd frame. Marshfield added the 6th goal when the Hodags pulled out goalie Alex Littleton in an attempt to spark a late offensive push.
The Tigers outshot the Hodags 30-16 on the night. Sophomore Jake Arno began the game in the net for Rhinelander, stopping 19 of 23 attempted shots. Littleton saved five of the six shots tried during his tenure in the net.
Despite the difference on the scoreboard, the game didn't quite have the blowout feel. The Hodags pressured the Tigers early and often, and continued on the attack the entire night. Dogged determination had the Hodags racing after the puck until the game's final seconds.
Hodag Head Coach Michael Laggis explained some of the difficulties his team faced on the night, as well as his interpretations of the evening's action.
"If you watch the game, it didn't have a 6-0 feel to it. We battled hard, gave up two (goals) in the first, one in the second, two in the third and the open netter when we were trying to score. We play scrappy and competitive. I thought our strength tonight was our defensive core. But we need to generate some offense, no doubt about it."
Laggis also explained how having a smaller, inexperienced team can hinder a squad in the early goings of the year.
"We played a short bench to start with and four of our guys were playing in their first game," said Laggis. "We have a big week with three games, but I really like how scrappy we are as a group. I like our attitude in the locker room. I think we are seeing some really positive things compared to where we were last year, but we need to find a way to generate some goals."
When discussing who stepped up in the night's contest, Coach Laggis pointed toward four players in particular he thought helped lead the charge and provide stability for this young team, and what he wants to see them improve upon in the future.
"I think our defense men led the way," stated Laggis. "I like the way Henry Kipper and Bobby Estabrook are playing together, as well as Cal Erdmann and Brett (Estabrook). All four of those kids played well. Trent Wild, Ben Franson and Chris Hagen played pretty well up front, but we need to generate goals. We had pressure for extended periods of time, but we need to capitalize. We had too many missed shots that just missed the net and too many goals that we didn't rebound."
When discussing his two goalie strategy, a combination between Jake Arno and Alex Littleton, Coach Laggis explained that a little friendly competition can be highly beneficial for everyone involved.
"We want to continue to see competition in goal," said Laggis. "We haven't had it for a long time. We want to see Jake and Alex push each other and play like crazy to win the job. They both got time tonight and both looked good in moments, and I'm sure they both want some shots back."
Laggis continued, explaining what he wants to see his team fine-tune in the coming weeks.
"We need to get in the mode of hitting the net and getting rebounds. We need to keep working on our offensive skills and although we played well in the defensive zone, we still had some breakdowns. We played well on the power play, but we need to keep working on it."
When shifting focus toward their upcoming contest against Chequamegon, Coach Laggis gives his personal opinion on the Hodags' future opponent.
"Chequamegon has a very talented first five. They are very skilled. I feel like after that, they drop off. We played them to a 2-1 finish and had some other quality opportunities we didn't convert on. They are a good team and our hands are going to be full, so we need to take another step. We are going to have a big emphasis on catching passes and hitting the net."
As previously mentioned the Hodags (0-1, 0-0 GNC) take on Chequamegon/Phillips on Thursday at the Rhinelander Ice Arena at 7 p.m.
Editor's note: For more coverage of local sports, visit StarJournalNOW.com and HodagSports.com.
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