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T-Bird hockey comes up victorious

December 17, 2019 by Brett LaBore

In what has been a successful start to the season already, the Lakeland boys’ hockey team capitalized on that start with another great win.

The Thunderbirds defeated non-conference Amery 4-1 on Saturday and improved their record to 6-1 on the season.

“We had the youth kids out on the bench for warmups and everything and there’s a youth game before and after this, so it’s kind of a little cool hockey day here with the day game and it was fun,” coach Jake Suter said.

The first period went scoreless, but was filled with exciting moments. 

Amery’s Jackson Henningsgard received a penalty for interference three and a half minutes into the period. That gave the Thunderbirds a power play opportunity. 

Within that power play, Max Toijala had multiple shots on goal, but couldn’t find the back of the net. Amery killed off the penalty and the game remained scoreless.

Two minutes later, Collin Guelcher continued to show why he’s a top goalie. He made a couple of nice saves to preserve the score at 0-0. 

“He’s been doing awesome, playing great every game,” Suter said. 

Midway through the first period, Teag Wagner and Keegan McJoynt made a run towards the goal, taking some shots at the goal. Amery’s Ethan Mork made some saves throughout the period. 

Coming towards the end of the period, Amery got aggressive and looked to take a lead. The Thunderbird defense/Guelcher held their ground and the first period came to an end.

Right away to start the second period, the Thunderbirds wasted no time scoring. Victor Masayesva got the Thunderbirds on the board. They led 1-0.

“We put things into place in practice and everything, but the kids executed everything we asked of them and competed hard so it was there in that win,” Suter said.

Penalties became the story for part of the period. First, the Thunderbirds killed off a penalty and held on to their 1-0 lead. Then Amery killed off a penalty. The Thunderbirds had opportunities to score, but couldn’t get one past Mork.

Finally the Thunderbirds went back on penalty kill after a high stick penalty by Kyle Schaub. This time Amery took advantage. Fletcher Kjeseth tied the game at 1-1, assisted by Nick Bush.

With two minutes to go in the second period, the Thunderbirds started to take back the momentum. It started when Toijala made a run towards the goal, saved by Mork. Mork finished with 25 total saves.

With one minute to go in the period, Cody Olson received a penalty for cross checking. Not only did they not let Amery score during their power play, but the Thunderbirds answered with a shorthanded goal.

Toijala scored the shorthanded goal, assisted by Victor Masayesva with 36.7 seconds in the period. It proved to be the winning goal and defining moment of the game. Lakeland led 2-1 after two periods.

“It was a huge change in the game,” Suter said. “They were kind of all over us and to get a shorty like that it was huge, probably won us the game.”

Now in the third period, the Thunderbirds killed off the rest of the penalty and wanted to score at least one more goal to put this game out of reach.

More than three minutes into the period, Toijala had yet another good look at goal that was saved. 

Amery wasn’t going to go down without a fight. They had multiple shots including a scrum in front of the net. Guelcher continued to play strong and make saves.

Toijala and Victor Masayesva continued their chemistry when they had a little give-and-go towards Amery’s net. Their scoring chance was thwarted.

Midway through the period, Guelcher made a couple more saves on some slap shots right to him. He finished with 32 total saves. Lakeland still led 2-1. 

“You never want to go in a shell, but obviously you want to be a little more cautious and take care of your defensive zone,” Suter said.

With one minute to go in the final period, Amery pulled their goalie and looked to tie the game. They never had a great look at a score.

The Thunderbirds put the exclamation point on the game with an empty net goal by Toijala, unassisted with 33.7 seconds.

Still an empty net, the Thunderbirds scored once more with 8.4 seconds left. Schaub scored the empty net goal, assisted by McJoynt. The Thunderbirds won 4-1.

Their next game comes tonight against conference foe Northland Pines at Eagle River Sports Arena. The puck drops at 7:30 p.m. Both teams come into the game undefeated in conference play thus far.

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

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