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Shutting them down

January 24, 2020 by Brett LaBore

It’s been a successful start to the start of 2020. The Lakeland boys’ hockey team carried a win streak of five games and looked to keep it up against Medford.

The Thunderbirds knocked off the Raiders 2-0 on Monday night.

“Every conference game is huge and Medford is a very good team,” coach Jake Suter said. “They’ve come a long way as a team and they’re a well-coached team and great goaltender and they gave us everything we could handle.”

Eight and half minutes into the first period, the Thunderbirds scored their first goal from JJ Albee, assisted by Cody Olson. Albee took a shot close to the net and snuck it by Medford’s AJ Adleman.

“It was a great play down low; Cody Olson jumped down from the blue line and made a great pass to JJ Albee (who went) back door and he wasted no time putting it away. It was a very nice goal,” Suter said. 

The score remained that way for a while. The Thunderbirds were searching for a little breathing room in the second period. They finally got that with a goal from Mike Kosmen. River Nicklaus and Albee had the assists.

Kosmen found the rebound and was able to poke it in for the score. The Thunderbirds led 2-0.

“River had a good shot to the net that got tipped by somebody and Mike Kosmen was there on the back door for a nice goal,” Suter said. 

There were many other chances for the Thunderbirds to score a goal. They ended up taking 44 shots, but only had two goals to show for it.

One such opportunity came at the start of the second period. They had a power play chance that carried over from the end of the first period when Medford’s Logan Searles was penalized for kneeing.

The Raiders killed the penalty and kept the score at bay. 

Medford took a shot on goal in the second period, saved by Collin Guelcher. He recorded a shutout and made 23 saves.

“(Collin) was awesome for us,” Suter said. “They threw everything they had at us there in the third and he was strong; 23 save shutout is always a big night. He’s Mr. Reliable back there.”

After Guelcher’s save, the Thunderbirds countered. Victor Masayesva had a look at a rebound goalie, but couldn’t put it in.

Two minutes later, Medford’s Dalton Hraby made a run to the net, saved again by Guelcher. 

The Thunderbirds were relentless as they tried to add to their score. At one point midway through the second period they took a shot that went high in the air. When it landed, there was a scrum at the net until the Raiders cleared it.

Joe Beda stole the puck and went one-on-one with Adleman. He took a hard shot towards Adleman’s chest, making the save.

Toward the end of the second period, Max Toijala got caught for slashing. The Raiders went on a power play to try to make it a one score game. Medford’s Austin Waldhart took a shot chest high, saved by Guelcher. 

With five seconds left, Medford had one more skate toward the goal, but time ran out before any threatening shot was taken.

The score was 2-0 after two periods. With everyone healthy, Suter had everyone available to him for the first time since Christmas break.

“It’s so hard when kids miss because we go over things in practice and they’re not there for it and different changes we might make,” he said. “So having everybody around, and being at everything is very beneficial.”

The third period saw a balanced attack. The Thunderbirds took 13 shots and the Raiders took 11.

Early on, Toijala weaved his way towards the goal and passed it. The shot was saved by Adleman.

Then, McCumber took a shot that was deflected by Kosmen at the goal. The deflection nearly went in the goal.

On a faceoff, Toijala quickly controlled the puck, passed it to Masayesva who nearly put it in, saved again by Adleman. The chances were there, but the score remained the same.

Masayesva then had a nice sequence with Beda. The pass was there, but the shot did not amount to anything.

Toijala found himself in the penalty box again as the Thunderbirds tried to kill of a power play. Not only did they succeed, but Beda skated the puck down and took a shot that went high and off the mark.

“(The power play) is actually one of our weakest areas,” Suter said. “We worked on it a lot yesterday and the days leading up in practice and they executed well.”

Next, Masayesva was penalized for cross-checking. Shorthanded again, Toijala and Beda went two-on-two for a goal chance that ended up just missing. Lakeland killed the penalty yet again.

“We still have a lot to work on it, but they did a good job killing off five power plays and they were good at it,” Suter said. 

Teag Wagner took a shot on goal later in the game to try and see if he could create an opportunity.

With a minute to go, Kyle Bengtson passed it to Olson across the ice. The shot went off but no goal scored.

The win improved the Thunderbirds to 12-2 overall, 6-1 in the Great Northern Conference. It also clinched the No. 2 seed for the T-Birds in the GNC tournament. Lakeland will host either Medford or Tomahawk Feb. 4 in the GNC quarterfinals at the Lakeland Ice Arena.

Lakeland hosted the Northwest Icemen (Barron co-op) on Thursday. Coverage of that game will be in the Jan. 28 edition of The Times.

Next, the T-Birds host D.C. Everest on Saturday, Jan. 25 starting at noon. It is the make-up game from Jan. 17.

Brett LaBore may be reached at [email protected] or [email protected].

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