EAGLE RIVER — The Northern Edge girls’ hockey co-op proved Monday night it’s a different team than the one that lost twice by six goals to Northland Pines earlier this season.
Izzy Boyer scored twice for the Edge, which scored four unanswered goals to defeat the Eagles 4-1 at the Eagle River Sports Arena.
Kate Vizanko added a goal and three assists as the Edge won in Eagle River’s storied dome for only the third time in program history — and first time since 2015.
Trailing 1-0 and being outshot 11-0 11 minutes into the first period, a light came on for the Edge as it scored twice in the final 3:14 of the first period. The team tacked on two more goals over the first 5:28 of the second and held the Eagles off the board the rest of the way with a 29-save effort from Alicia Turunen.
The Edge (9-5-0) has won five straight games since losing to Northland Pines 6-0 in Rhinelander back on Jan. 9. The Edge also lost 7-1 to Pines in Eagle River Dec. 17. Edge coach Tom Roeser said his team is starting to hit its stride.
“Last weekend (at the Beaver Dam Invite) they started doing some things that were pretty unselfish, which kind of led me to believe that they’re becoming more of a team,” he said. “They’re working for each other. They’re talking on the bench. They’re teaching each other. That’s the main thing. They’re starting to act like a team and starting to play like one.”
Boyer scored twice to give the Edge the lead late in the first period, Wyndi Saari added a goal early in the second and Vizanko scored on the power play 5:28 into the second as the Edge stunned the partisan Pines crowd.
“They just found a different energy,” Roeser said. “Pines has that one really solid like and they tried to use them. They were matching us up in the first two period. We rolled quickly two lines because we were subbing in on that first line to give them a little break and, hopefully, wear Pines out.”
The first 10 minutes of the game looked much like the first two meeting with Northland Pines controlling the puck and the scoreboard. Grace Wittkopf stole a puck near the edge blue line, walked in and scored to give the Eagles a 1-0 lead just 3:53 into the contest.
The Edge did not register its first shot on goal until 5:30 remaining in the first period when Maria Gironella sent a shot in from the right point that was sticked aside by Pines net minder Ashlynn Boxrucker, but momentum soon changed in the Edge’s favor.
Boyer’s first tally came at the 13:46 mark of the period as Vizanko made a centering pass from the left corner that Boyer made an athletic play on, finding the top right corner of the goal on a one-timer as she skated through the slot from right to left.
Boyer struck again, with a little good fortune, with 37 seconds remaining in the first period as she shot the puck in from the slot. Defender Emma Sima, diving to block the shot, slid into Boxrucker and the puck trickled past both of them into the goal. Boyer was credited with the goal though Vizanko appeared to be in position to redirect the puck.
“We started out pretty slow. We got outshot 16-5 in that first period and we were up 2-1,” Roeser said. “We were doing somewhat what we wanted. We didn’t put real quality shots on, but the ones we did score on were rebounds. We were crashing the net.”
The Edge continued to crash the net early in the second period. Wyndi Saari stuffed a rebound between the pipe and Boxrucker’s skate 2:04 into the second and Vizanko was in position for a rebound at the 5:28 mark off a Madi Losch shot from the point.
The goal came on a power play that was the result of a Cassidy Sternhagen roughing penalty, one of only three penalties called in the game despite some physical play from both teams.
“They weren’t taking the penalties that we thought, honestly, they should be taking, but our girls played very composed, didn’t retaliate and I’m very proud about that,” Roeser said. “There’s times in the past we’d give them a shot back, go into the box and have to kill (a penalty).”
From there, Turunen and the defense held the Eagles at bay, particularly Pines’ top line of Wittkopf, Allison Kieffer and Madison Stebbeds. Three times in the third period Wittkopf walked in on a scoring chance and all three times Turunen turned her way.
“I don’t care how many goals it is, I’m never comfortable with a lead against Pines,”?Roeser said. “Right up to the five-minute mark, it’s still a three-goal lead and I’m just not comfortable because I know what they can do. Our goal was to box it up in front of our net, don’t let people stand around, don’t let people walk and be unselfish with the puck.
“We closed it up in front and Alicia did a great job. There were a couple of flurries where I thought they were going to score, but Alicia, she’s been playing great.”
Pines outshot the Edge 30-22 in the contest and Boxrucker made 18 saves in defeat for the Eagles (11-4-2). With the start off the WIAA playoffs three weeks away, Roeser said his team is building a resume in a win streak that includes victories over Northland Pines and Wisconsin Valley Union.
“It should give us a little more to talk about at seeding. We’ve got two games this weekend too against a couple of good teams and we’re just trying to keep the momentum going,” he said. “Whatever happens to us happens to us when we do finally seed, but I think these girls are really building a case for themselves to maybe jump up a seed or two.”
The Edge hits the road this weekend for a pair of games in the greater Milwaukee area. The team plays the Brookfield Glacier on Friday afternoon and then takes on the Lakeshore (Cedarburg) Lightning on Saturday.
Jeremy Mayo may be reached at [email protected]