The Lakeland boys’ soccer team played in what might be one of the best games of their lifetime Tuesday night in Rhinelander.
The Thunderbirds defeated the Hodags 5-4 in PKs after a 3-3 game that went to two overtimes.
“The boys are going to have a good memory for years after this one,” coach Ihor Myshchyshyn said.
Right off the bat, the Thunderbirds had a great chance to score. Brandon Boh passed it to Kyle Bengtson who took a shot, saved by Rhinelander’s Gavin Osterman. Matthew Cliver had a chance at the rebound but hit it wide right.
From then on, Rhinelander took control of the game. In the 11th minute, Hugh Wiese hit a deep cross to Nicholas St. Pierre, who chipped it over to the back right corner for the first goal of the game. Hodags led 1-0.
One minute later, a touch kick from Braden Mork to Wiese at the top of the 18 went right corner, giving Rhinelander a 2-0 lead.
In the 20th minute, Boh tried to create to get his team back in the game. He took a left-footed shot from 25 yards out, saved by the goal. That turned into an advantage for the Hodags.
Osterman distributed to Mork who passed it to Beau Howard. Vincent Strong came out to challenge the shot and Howard tapped it in for the goal. The Hodags had a commanding 3-0 lead.
“It’s tough to come from behind 1-0, 2-0,” Myshchyshyn said. “3-0 it doesn’t happen very often, but it happened so early in the match and it’s a long 90 minute game.”
Down 3-0, it was the Thunderbirds who went on a hot streak.
Shortly after the Hodags third goal, D.J. Ratajczyk chipped pass to Teag Wagner, who shot it to the inside of the right post for their first goal of the game.
At the 32nd minute, the Hodags took a long, far shot to try and get the goal back. Miles Wentworth just shot it high over the bar.
Right before halftime, a big shift in the momentum took place. Lakeland pushed the ball down the field to try and score one more goal. Boh got a second chance at a goal from 12 yards out and scored from inside the right post.
“You started feeling the momentum switching and after the second goal going into the locker room, both teams started moving into different directions,” Myshchyshyn said.
Rhinelander led 3-2 at halftime. Both the Hodags and Thunderbirds had taken 11 shots.
“It was a nice match as you can see the score was two solid teams going at it and pushed both sides to the limit,” Myshchyshyn said. “It was a good setting to play.”
It didn’t take long before the Thunderbirds found the back of the net once again. Kyle Bengtson took a corner kick that bounced into the box. From there, Collin Quade passed it to Jason Hilgart who shot it in at the back post.
The Thunderbirds had come back from 3-0 to tie it at 3-3 in the 48th minute.
“After our (halftime) talk, we came out strong and put one right in at the beginning,” Myshchyshyn said. “At that point we felt like we had got back at level ground.”
From that point on, goals were hard to come by. In fact, no goals were scored for the rest of the game.
A close call came in the 51st minute. Wiese was fouled just outside the box. Wiese tapped it to Wentworth, whose shot was blocked by the defense.
Boh had a good look at a goal in the 60th minute. He took a left-footed shot in space from 30 yards out, that just went wide left.
In the 63rd minute, the Thunderbirds had more chances. Quade passed it to Boh, but Daniel Ritchie took the ball away at the top of the 18. Off a throw in, Quade tried a header, missing on a cross inside the six.
In the 87th minute, Joseph Heck almost misplayed a chip in the box that Osterman covered just before Hilgart could take a shot from 12 yards.
The Thunderbirds had clearly taken the momentum. The shots were now 27-14 in favor of Lakeland. The game went to overtime tied at 3-3.
“We had the best chances,” Myshchyshyn said. “We had chances, half-chances, little off-luck.”
As overtime started, the Thunderbirds had more looks at a goal. Boh took a shot from 30 yards off that hit the right goal post, rebounded to Hilgart who shot it wide right.
The Hodags finally got a chance to shoot on net. In the 96th minute, Harrison Shinners pressed a shot from 30 yards, low and saved by Strong.
In the second overtime Shinners made a run between two defenders, took a shot 15 yards right side off base of right post, but no one was there for the rebound.
“As you watch games like this, as the chances pass by, you wonder if there will be one single one from the opposition go into the net,” Myshchyshyn said.
Still, no goals were scored. After 110 minutes of soccer, the game went to penalty kicks.
The Thunderbirds won the coin toss, electing to let the Hodags shoot first. Shooting first, Shinners scored a goal. Bengtson answered with one of his own. It was 1-1.
“Eventually the five players that were selected stepped up and were placed in order to have a strong start and decent finish,” Myshchyshyn said.
In round two, Ritchie took a shot that went straight on, hit the cross bar and just bounced in. Brendan McMahon answered with a goal and it was 2-2.
In round three, Wentworth couldn’t convert his shot, missing wide right. That would prove to be the difference. Brandon Boh made his shot on a hard liner that went just past the diving keeper.
Round four saw both Wiese and Ratajczyk made their goals.
“Under pressure after playing for 110 minutes, you’re not coming in to take that PK with fresh legs with the conditions that we played in,” Myshchyshyn said.
It all came down to round five. Rhinelander needed to make their goal and have Lakeland miss there’s. Mork took a shot that just got through Strong’s hands and into the goal.
Quade was up for the Thunderbirds. He took a shot inside the left post for the goal. The Thunderbirds won 5-4 on penalty kicks and advanced to the next round against Waupaca.
“All around the boys should be very, very proud of themselves after a game like last night,” Myshchyshyn said.
Their next game at Waupaca came Thursday. Coverage of that game will be in the Oct. 29 edition of The Times.
With a win, the Thunderbirds next game would come Saturday, Oct. 26 against the winner of Shawano and Mosinee.
Brett LaBore may be reached at [email protected] or [email protected]