Max Savaloja scored once.
And then once more.
By the time the Eau Claire Memorial marksman was done, he had turned a one-goal lead into a surefire victory. And it only took two minutes and 10 seconds to do it.
Savaloja tallied three goals in that span as part of a four-goal second period for the Old Abes in a 7-2 win over intracity rival Eau Claire North at Hobbs Ice Center on Tuesday. Memorial’s win served as payback for a 5-1 defeat the Huskies had handed the Old Abes in early January.
“We’ve been driving toward this for a long time, since January,” Savaloja said. “It definitely gets us some revenge.”
Memorial made clear from the very beginning that it wouldn’t be a repeat of January’s drubbing. Joe Kelly swooped down the ice and scored the game’s first goal just 19 seconds after the opening faceoff.
“That was huge. We didn’t do much last time we played against them,” Memorial coach Chris Tok said. “Just to get to get that one and get the lead, it gave us a little bit more belief that we could do this.”
North didn’t take long to match that early goal, as star forward Zach Urdahl found the back of the net to tie it up a little over three minutes later.
But the Huskies would have no answer for what the Abes brought in the second period.
Memorial goaltender Joe Berg gave the Old Abes a boost of momentum, winning a one-on-one opportunity against Urdahl early in the period. Less than three minutes later, Andrew Roberts — who scored twice for Memorial — knocked in a rebound on the other end of the ice to put the Old Abes up 2-1.
Soon after, Savaloja took over. The junior scored two goals off of rebounds and sealed his hat trick with a snipe into the upper left corner of the net to stretch the lead to 5-1.
“He’s a gamer. When the big games are played, he seems to be the one to stick his nose in there and do something to create offensive opportunities,” Tok said.
Goals from Memorial’s Trevin Kison and Roberts sandwiched a score by North’s Johan Akervik in the third period, well after the outcome had been decided.
Tuesday’s result was the polar opposite of North’s win in January. In that game, the Huskies scored at will while the Old Abes couldn’t get much going. In the encore, it was Memorial who clamped down on defense and got the puck moving in the offensive zone.
“Their speed, I think, comes out of the defensive zone. So we tried to get tighter gaps on them, and that basically was it,” Tok said. “(Defensemen) Gunnar Leary and Kaden Kohlhepp did a really good job of closing their gaps and not letting them build that speed up.”
With the win, Memorial moved into a tie atop the Big Rivers Conference with North at 16 points apiece. Chippewa Falls and Hudson are both lurking not far behind with 14 points each.
The Old Abes seemed to be in precarious position in early January after losing consecutive games to North and Hudson. But they’ve now rattled off seven consecutive wins as the postseason nears.
“We’re just hitting stride right now,” Savaloja said. “Our goalie’s playing great, and our younger guys are getting comfortable now.”
Two games remain for North and Memorial on the Big Rivers slate. The Huskies host Chippewa Falls and Rice Lake, while Memorial faces Hudson and River Falls.