Monday, August 20, 2018

Sports

Prep hockey: Old Abes use speed, net presence to score early and often in convincing win

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    Above: Eau Claire North goalie Tyler Schre­iter loses sight of the puck ­un­der him as Me­mo­rial’s Hut­son Collins (20) rushes to the net Thurs­day at Hobbs Ice Cen­ter.

    Staff photos by Spencer Nickel
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    Eau Claire Memorial's Adam Webb sets up a shot during the boys hockey game at Hobbs Ice Arena on February 1, 2018 View more photos at LeaderTelegramPhotos.com.

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    Eau Claire Memorial’s Hutson Collins brings the puck up the ice Thursday against North at Hobbs Ice Center.

    Staff photo by Spencer Nickel
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    Eau Claire North's Cal Fadness passes the puck during the boys hockey game at Hobbs Ice Arena on February 1, 2018 View more photos at LeaderTelegramPhotos.com.

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    Eau Claire Memorial's Will Schick breaks away to take the puck down ice during the boys hockey game at Hobbs Ice Arena on February 1, 2018 View more photos at LeaderTelegramPhotos.com.

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    Eau Claire North's Gabe Martin attempts to keep the puck away from Eau Claire Memorial's Adam Webb during the boys hockey game at Hobbs Ice Arena on February 1, 2018 View more photos at LeaderTelegramPhotos.com.

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    Eau Claire Memorial's Kaegan Calchera takes the puck down ice during the boys hockey game at Hobbs Ice Arena on February 1, 2018 View more photos at LeaderTelegramPhotos.com.

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It’s almost equivalent to a flash of lightning.

It can happen like a snap of the finger, and if you’re not looking you might even miss it. But the lasting damage can be insurmountable.

That’s the kind of electricity Eau Claire Memorial’s speed can generate. The Old Abes, blessed with quickness on every one of their lines, turn close games into blowouts in a matter of minutes.

Eau Claire North was directly in the eye of the storm on Thursday.

The Old Abes got their first goal on a 2-on-1 rush just three minutes in and never stopped skating toward the net in a 7-2 blowout win over the Huskies in Big Rivers boys hockey action at Hobbs Ice Center.

“I think our guys are hungry when they come out,” Memorial coach Chris Tok said. “They use their speed, keep attacking and get pucks on the net.”

It was a complete effort for Memorial (17-2-1, 9-1), which dominated all three zones and won the goaltending battles on Thursday. 

Even after North cut a four-goal lead to three and showed some life late in the second period, the Abes answered almost immediately.  

“We said we were going to have a killer mentality,” forward Keagan Calchera said. “We tried to keep that throughout the game.”

They succeeded on that mission.

In the first, Brenden Olson took a chipped puck and looked up to see he had a 2-on-1 with Ben Zacho. In something that’s basically become a catch phrase by now — Olson to Zacho or Zacho to Olson — the two connected for a goal just three minutes in. 

Since being paired together midway through January, the dynamic duo has combined for 13 goals in five games and have assisted one another on eight of those. 

“It’s really good to get stuff going at the start of the game,” Olson said. “North is a strong team, and they really pushed us hard. It was nice to get that start to get us going.”

But it wasn’t just speed that paced Memorial on Thursday. 

The Old Abes had a strong net presence all night, which has been a point of emphasis all year under Tok. 

Grant Thielbar scored a first-period goal after being at the crease when the puck slid under Tyler Schreiter’s glove. Austin Karnitz also scored a rebound goal on the power play in the third.

“We wanted to get pucks to the net and crash and make them defend the front of the net, not defend 30 to 40 feet from the net,” Tok said. 

The Old Abes went up 4-0 after Josh Berg scored on a nifty centering pass from Zacho, and then Joe Free rifled a wrister into the upper right corner. 

North (14-6-1, 6-4) responded quickly after Free’s goal as Sam Stange notched No. 29 on the year — he’d get his 30th late in the third period — on a laser from the top of the circle. 

But with the Huskies desperately grasping for any form of momentum, Olson slammed the door two minutes later after getting himself to the slot following a faceoff.

“Really took the wind out of their sails and got the game back in our favor,” Tok said.

Memorial actually scored again to close out the second period as the catch phrase struck again. Olson circled around the net and centered it out front to Zacho, who had plenty of space to shoot it in. 

Stange found time and space twice, and the leading scorer in the Big Rivers didn’t miss. But Memorial kept him away from the slot most of the night and shut down the other scoring lines.

Most of North’s chances came from tough angles, and very few in close to the net. 

“We’re really pushing them to the perimeter and limiting their opportunities and really getting them out of the zone,” Olson said.

Trevor Hudecek was a rock between the pipes, stopping 25 of the 26 shots he faced before getting some rest in the third. Memorial emptied its bench for the third period.

On Tuesday night, it’s a date at home with top-ranked Hudson. It’s been over a year since the Raiders last lost. That game? A 4-3 loss to Memorial on Jan. 5, 2017, at Hobbs Ice Center. 

Is there a chance of storms Tuesday too?


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