The Lakeland boys’ hockey team returned to conference action with a game at Antigo on Tuesday night.
The Thunderbirds snuck out with a 3-2 victory and improved to 4-1 in conference.
“It is always great to get a win. It was a great game,” assistant coach Gary Olson said. “Antigo is a well coached team.”
The combination of Victor Masayesva and Max Toijala struck again for the first goal of the game in the first period. Victor Masayesva got the goal and Toijala the assist.
“Our forwards continue to show improvement in our defensive end. We are also working a lot of coming out of the zone with speed,” coach Olson said. “At times tonight, the kids did a really good job at this. Max Toijala had an outstanding game.”
That goal became part of what was a clean first period — there were no penalties on either side as the Thunderbirds went into the locker room up 1-0.
The second period saw some more fire power. This time Toijala scored a power play goal on passes from Joe Beda and Teag Wagner.
“Joe, Max and Vic had another great game up front as did River Nicklaus and Teag Wagner,” coach Jake Suter said.
The power play came when Antigo’s Calvin Jansen got caught for high-sticking, followed shortly by Reese Myre for the same thing.
Three and a half minutes later, just before the end of the second period, Cody Olson got hit a with a two-minute minor for tripping.
It didn’t take long before the Red Robins scored their first goal thanks to Paden Michalick on passes from Chris Krueger and Isaac Wickersheim. The Thunderbirds still led 2-1.
Thanks to another great performance by Collin Guelcher, the The Thunderbirds killed off two different Antigo power plays in the third period. He finished with 29 saves on 31 shots on goal.
“Collin Guelcher did an outstanding job in the net,” coach Olson said. “He came up with some huge saves in the third period.”
After the Antigo’s second power play ended, Beda gave the Thunderbirds some breathing room with a goal on passes from Kyle Bengtson and Olson. The score grew to 3-1 Lakeland.
“Kyle Bengtson played the best hockey I’ve seen him play,” Suter said. “Bengtson has been our unsung leader throughout the season. He didn’t play hockey last year, started this year as a defender. I moved him to forward on Friday, which he has never played before, and not only has he not complained once, he has excelled.”
His play helped set up Beda for the goal that ended up being the difference.
“Tonight (Bengtson) blocked a shot late in the game, took it down the ice and set up Joe Beda for the game winning goal. Great kid and is becoming a very good leader for us,” Suter said.
Antigo made one last attempt with a goal before the end of the game. Wickersheim scored on assists from Myre and Jordan Arrowood. The Lakeland lead was cut to 3-2 as they held on for the win.
Even though the Red Robins outshot the Thunderbirds 31-17, it came down to execution.
“We did not have as many shots as we would have liked but we did a better job with some of our offensive concepts,” coach Olson said.
Their next game came Thursday at non-conference Ashland. Coverage of that game will be in the Jan. 14 edition of The Times
Then the Thunderbirds hit the ice Tuesday, Jan. 14 against Rhinelander. The puck drops at 7 p.m.
Brett LaBore may be reached at [email protected] or [email protected]