Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Sports

Prep hockey: Old Abes leave no doubt in playoff opener

Five first-period goals give Memorial chance to empty its bench

  • ED-Hockey-1a-021618

    Memorial's Hutson Collins takes a shot during the hockey game Regis Altoona McDonell at Hobbs Ice Arena in Eau Claire on February 15, 2018. View more photos at LeaderTelegramPhotos.com

    Staff photo by Elena Dawson
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  • ED-Hockey-6a-021618

    Memorial’s Grant Thielbar prepares to take a shot during Thursday’s WIAA boys hockey regional final against Regis/Altoona/McDonell at Hobbs Ice Center. Thielbar scored two goals as Memorial won 9-1. View more photos at LeaderTelegramPhotos.com.

    Staff photo by Elena Dawson
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  • ED-Hockey-5a-021618-3

    Memorial's Kaden Kohlhepp waits for the puck during the hockey game against Regis Altoona McDonell at Hobbs Ice Arena in Eau Claire on February 15, 2018. View more photos at LeaderTelegramPhotos.com

    Staff photo by Elena Dawson
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  • ED-Hockey-4a-021618-2

    Memorial' Ben Zacho gains control of the puck while RAM's Bennett Seelen defends during the hockey game at Hobbs Ice Arena in Eau Claire on February 15, 2018. View more photos at LeaderTelegramPhotos.com

    Staff photo by Elena Dawson
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  • ED-Hockey-3a-021618-1

    Kaden Kohlhepp (3) and other Memorial teammates celebrate a goal during the hockey game against Regis Altoona McDonell at Hobbs Ice Arena in Eau Claire on February 15, 2018. View more photos at LeaderTelegramPhotos.com

    Staff photo by Elena Dawson
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  • ED-Hockey-2a-021618

    Memorial's Issac Leland chases down the puck during the hockey game against Regis Altoona McDonell at Hobbs Ice Arena in Eau Claire on February 15, 2018. View more photos at LeaderTelegramPhotos.com

    Staff photo by Elena Dawson
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The formula was pretty simple for top-seeded and third-ranked Eau Claire Memorial.

Get an early lead, empty the bench and keep everyone healthy.

It helped that eighth-seeded Regis/​Altoona/​McDonell, fresh off a one-goal win over Black River Falls on Tuesday, spent 19 minutes in the penalty box. 

Thanks to four power play goals and an onslaught of first-period shots, the Old Abes made quick work of RAM, a 9-1 drubbing in the WIAA boys hockey regional final on Thursday at Hobbs Ice Center.

“I think if you were going to draw it up, that’s exactly how you’d want the game to happen,” Memorial coach Chris Tok said. 

Memorial is going for its ninth straight trip to the state tournament and had to set a tone in the postseason opener. It couldn’t be too lackadaisical.

The Old Abes put that notion of looking ahead away early and often, scoring five times in the first period with the first two coming on the power play. 

Brenden Olson scored the first of his four tallies just 2:22 in as he rifled one of his patented shots past goalie Keaton Comero, who all in all did everything he could to keep RAM afloat. 

Grant Thielbar then scored two special teams goals — one shorthanded and the other on the power play. 

Even though Austin Erickson scored to cut Memorial’s lead to 3-1, Hutson Collins and Josh Berg responded quickly and closed out the first period with goals of their own. Berg’s came on the man advantage. After the first period, the shot totals were 32-6 in favor of Memorial.

“We wanted to get pucks to the net and finish it early,” said defenseman Kaden Kohlhepp, who had three assists. “We wanted to keep our foot on the gas.”

Memorial did just that and scored twice more in the second on goals from Olson and Joe Free — one coming on the power play — to get a running clock. That allowed Memorial to empty its bench and let role players get chances. 

Olson, who played very little in the third period, still found a way to score twice more in the last 17 minutes. 

The Old Abes played RAM in the same round last year, a 6-0 win. They remembered the style of play and what they were in for.

“They’re really hard workers,” Olson said. “They grind in the corners, so we just really worked on getting it to the middle on them and getting shots.” 

That led to 63 for the game, and it probably could have been a lot more.

Memorial’s goal is a lengthy stay in Madison. It will look for another focused and on-task effort against fifth-seed Marshfield early next week in the sectional semifinals.


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