Hodag hockey beats NLP for third time; heads to sectional final
Bob Mainhardt photos
It is often said that in sports, it’s difficult to beat the same team three times in one season. That can be especially true if the games are all at the opponent’s home facility, such as the Dome in Eagle River.
The Hodags had already defeated the Northland Pines Eagles twice by identical 5-3 scores. Tuesday evening it was a rematch at the Dome in the sectional semi-final. Winner advances and the loser’s season is over.
The Hodags have never been in a sectional semi-final so there was a lot on the line. The Hodags did not come out skating particularly well in the first, but fortunately were able to keep the Eagles from scoring as the first period ended with a 0-0 tie.
Northland Pines was called for a penalty as the horn sounded to end the first, which gave Rhinelander a power play opportunity to start the second period. The Hodags scored first in the second with 10:07 left in the period on a Harlan Wojtusik power play goal and that was followed shortly with a Joe Schneider goal at the 9:34 mark to give the Hodags a 2-0 lead.
Then the Eagles found the back of the net with 8:37 left and cut the Hodag lead to one and the Eagles would score again in the second to tie the game at two. The scoring in the second was not done yet, as Wojtusik would score with just 28.5 seconds remaining on a powerplay in the period to allow the Hodags to go into the locker room at the end of the second with a 3-2 lead and 3:48 remaining on an Eagles major penalty.
The Hodags could not take advantage of the penalty but would score on a Jake Losch shot at the 11:20 mark. Pines scored next with 6:05 remaining to cut the lead Hodag lead to 4-3 on a shorthanded goal. The Hodags came back during that powerplay opportunity and scored with three seconds left of the penalty to regain the two-goal lead at 5-3. Joe Schneider would score a goal on an assist from Joey Belanger to make the score 6-3 with under five minutes left to play.
The Eagles pulled the goalie to create a 6-on-5 attack and were able to score a goal late but the Hodags held on for the 6-4 win and advance to the sectional final in Mosinee Saturday against Lakeland for a chance to go to the state tournament.