CHIPPEWA FALLS — Chippewa Falls goalie Jaden Hoople said even his own classmates doubted the Cardinals’ ability to best North after the Huskies’ 5-1 demolition of Memorial on Thursday.
“Everyone at school today was saying, ‘Ah, North’s too good. You’re not going to win,’” Hoople said. “This year, compared to last year, we’re not laying down to any team.”
The Cardinals, thanks largely to a stellar performance from Hoople in net, proved the naysayers wrong. Forward Cole Koxlien scored with 2:56 left in the third to lift Chippewa Falls past North, 4-3, and into first place in the Big Rivers conference.
Koxlien’s goal, only his second of the season, clinched the Cardinals’ first win over North in five attempts and returned the lunch pail trophy to Chippewa Area Ice Arena.
“Usually, Chippewa, we get an honorable mention once and a while, and then, poof, we go away,” Chi-Hi coach Scott Parker said. “Getting recognition, there comes responsibility with that. … We played like we belong.”
Chi-Hi trailed three times in the game but showed great resolve in fighting back each time.
North opened the scoring with 9:28 remaining in the first period thanks to a redirected shot. Defenseman Sam Thorp sent the puck in from the top left corner and Tyler Geroux changed its trajectory enough to notch his first goal of the year.
Chippewa Falls’ Aiden McCauley scored his first of two on the night five minutes later while standing on the doorstep.
North’s Zach Urdahl, the conference’s leading scorer, found the net for the 26th time on the power play three and a half minutes into the second. Sam Stange’s point shot produced a juicy rebound to Hoople’s right and Urdahl was in perfect position to capitalize.
The Cardinals’ second equalizer came on a failed clear. Nick Carlson cut off an attempted pass out of the zone and dished the puck to Jack Schimmel, who fired a shot home from between the circles at the hashes.
North’s Joey Koller, cutting back door, scored with a minute left in the middle frame thanks to a stellar pass from Jaxon Vance. Once again, the Cardinals would have to fight their way back in the third.
“We knew going into the third period that we had to score the first goal,” Hoople said.
The final comeback kicked off with nine minutes left, when Sawyer Bowe clashed the blade of his stick with the Huskie defender’s to eradicate a zone clearing saucer pass. Bowe quickly passed the puck off to McCauley, who held on for less than a second before sending a wrister.
Kyler Holmlund initiated the final goal, carrying the puck from his own blue line all the way down into the left corner of the North zone. When he crossed the goal line he looked up and found a cutting Koxlien right on the crease. Koxlien tapped the puck to the top corner and past North goalie Tyler Schreiter’s glove.
“I was just where I was supposed to be,” Koxlien said.
Hoople, an equalizing force in the game, finished with 32 saves on 35 shots.
Chi-Hi’s win and Memorial’s loss to Hudson puts North and the Cardinals atop the league with 10 points. Chippewa has the advantage due to head-to-head, but North has another whack at them with the teams matchup in Hobbs Municipal Ice Arena on Feb. 7.
“It’s a game we knew what we were getting into,” North coach Ryan Parker said. “Chippewa works hard and they’ve got great goaltending. You’ve got to throw everything including the kitchen sink at them and we just couldn’t break that plane.”
Chippewa Falls 4, North 3
North 1 2 0—3
Chippewa Falls 1 1 2—4
First period: 1, North, Tyler Geroux (Sam Thorp, Jaxon Vance), 7:42; 2, Chippewa Falls, Aiden McCauley (Brady Fixmer), 12:31 (pp). Second period: 3, North, Zach Urdahl (Sam Stange), 3:02 (pp); 4, Chippewa Falls, Jack Schimmel (Nick Carlson), 6:52; 5, North, Joey Koller (Vance, Urdahl), 16:00. Third period: 6, Chippewa Falls, McCauley (Sawyer Bowe), 7:54; 7, Chippewa Falls, Cole Koxlien (Kyler Holmlund), 16:04.
Shots on goal: North 7-13-15—35; Chippewa Falls 7-9-7—23. Penalties: North 3 for 6 mins; Chippewa Falls 2 for 4 mins. Goalies: North: Tyler Schreiter (23 shots, 19 saves); Chippewa Falls: Jaden Hoople (35 shots, 32 saves). Records: North 8-6-1, 5-1-0; Chippewa Falls 9-4-1, 5-1-0.