You can be off one night offensively and still win thanks to a stout defense.
It’s much harder to do so the other way around.
Fortunately it was the former for the Eau Claire Memorial boys hockey team on Tuesday night, a 5-0 victory for the Old Abes against Wisconsin Rapids at Hobbs Ice Arena.
“That’s a big part of our game, and we work on it all the time in practice,” senior defenseman Josh Berg said. “You have to have a good defense to build a good offense.”
Defense has always been a staple in Memorial’s program, but the goals had come early and often in the first four games. Twenty-five total to be exact.
After a scoreless and somewhat sloppy first period from the Abes’ offense, Memorial entered the period still tied. The defense, as it did all not, prevented guys from getting to the slot and eliminated many second-chance plays.
That allowed time for the offense to come alive, and the defense even sparked several scoring plays in the final two periods.
“Some of our scoring chances actually came because of good defensive plays and good transition,” coach Chris Tok said.
Memorial scored three times in the second period. Hutson Collins scored on a double-move in front of the net a second-chance effort from Joe Free and a skill play as Josh Berg skated wide and hit Ben Zacho streaking from the blue line.
The Abes scored twice more in the third. Berg led a 3-on-2 shorthanded rush from his defenseman position and hit Zacho wide, who put it on net for Andrew Roberts to rebound. Brenden Olson scored the final Abes goal.
All Memorial defenseman have the green light from Tok to join in on offense, and that was a big part of the scoring on Tuesday.
“That’s kind of now the new age of defense kind of jumping up in the rush,” Berg said.
And then, of course, there was some old-school physicality of bumping Red Raiders off the puck and having lock down goaltending from both starter Trevor Hudecek, who played the first two periods, and Nick Schultz.
Memorial outshot Wisconsin Rapids 58-21.
It wasn’t the prettiest of games for the undefeated Old Abes, but what was considered sloppy still resulted in a 5-0 win. They’ll get a week off before hosting Chippewa Falls on Tuesday night.