On the coldest night of the season, top-ranked Hudson met #6 Eau Claire Memorial Thursday evening at Hobbs Ice Arena for the Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine Game of the Week.
Inside, the action was red-hot as the teams battled each other for 51 minutes of non-stop action from end to end, culminating in a 4-3 victory by the Old Abes in a game that lived up to its billing as a 'must-see' game.
The visitors drew first blood in the opening period after each squad had a power play opportunity. Hudson's Cole Danielson grabbed a rebound in traffic and snapped the puck past ECM goalie Trevor 'Hudy' Hudecek for the 1-0 lead midway through the first. Aaron Squires was given an assist on the play.
Four minutes later, Brenden Olson squared the match at one when he picked up a loose puck near the blue line before skating down the left side and scoring from a tough angle on Hudson goalie Henry Baribeau. Hutson Collins and Josh Berg earned helpers on the play.
Sam Hanson was called for roughing after the horn sounded to end the period, giving Hudson a power play to start the middle period. Shots were 9-5 in favor of Hudson in the stanza.
As the second period began, Memorial's Ben Zacho found himself with a short-handed chance on a semi-breakaway, only to see Baribeau deny him with a nice pad save.
Zacho was involved in another scoring chance while on the man advantage moments later as he, Dawson Schwengler, and Hanson teamed up on an odd-man rush, but Schwengler's one-timer went just wide left.
Seconds after Hudson returned to full strength, the Old Abes put a flurry of shots on the Raider goalie, but Baribeau made three nice saves to keep the score even at one.
The visitors would grab the lead with just over five minutes to go.
Junior Aaron Grounds skated down the right side and loosed a shot on the ice that beat the ECM goalie to make it 2-1, with assists to Danielson and Squires.
As has been their wont this year, the Abes scored while on the penalty kill a couple minutes later. Zacho stormed down the middle, cutting to his left before getting to the goalie and then flipping a shot over the goalie's glove hand to tie the game at two with exactly three minutes left. Schwengler helped out on the play.
The shorty was number seven for the Old Abes this year, trailing only Fox Cities with 13.
Once again, Hudson held the shot edge, this time at 13-6.
The guests regained the lead just two minutes into the third period.
Grady Gornick found himself with the puck down low and beat the ECM goalie to give the Raiders a one-goal edge.
After a few minutes of back-and-forth play, Hanson got the equalizer for ECM. The senior forward skated down the middle and beat the Hudson goalie high on the glove side to knot the contest at three.
After Memorial failed to convert on a power play in the middle of the period, Hudson almost went ahead, but solid netminding kept the score tied. George Nuutinen saw his point-blank chance rejected by Hudecek with just over five minutes left.
With just under two minutes left, Hanson and Sam Jochimsen went off on a 2-on-1 rush. This time it was Hanson's turn to be the hero, and he did not fail, burying the game-winner, with an additional assist to Schwengler.
Baribeau came off at 1:15 for an extra attacker, but the Old Abes thwarted the man advantage and celebrated a 4-3 victory over #1 Hudson.
Hudson once again held the shot advantage, 12-7.
Hudy stopped 31 shots for the win, with several clutch saves in the final period of play. Baribeau played well also, saving 14 shots for Hudson.
ECM improved to 9-3-1, while Hudson dropped to 10-2. Both teams are 4-1 in the Big Rivers, trailing leader Chippewa Falls, who is 5-0.