SPASH came into Saturday's Wisconsin Prep Hockey Game of the Week against Northland Pines with three straight losses to Mosinee, DC Everest and Waupun.
On Thursday, Jan. 2, Northland Pines beat Mosinee 9-0. Two days later, and playing their third game in three days, Mosinee beat SPASH 6-1.
So, of course, all of that adds up to a 6-3 SPASH win over Northland Pines on Saturday. That's why they play the games.
Brady Dillingham opened the scoring for SPASH at the 4:07 mark of the first period. He took a feed from Kade Smigaj on his backhand, and spun around in front of the net, firing a show past Pines netminder Brett Wilkins. Dillingham was largely left uncontested in front of the net on the play, which would become a theme for the night for Northland Pines in their defensive zone.
Pines evened it up just over ten minutes later at 14:41. Freshman Hunter Bill took a feed from Zach Maillette and dangled a SPASH defenseman off his feet, leaving Bill alone to beat goalie Jonathan Nafe.
It stayed that way until 14:34 in the second period when Maillette picked up a goal of his own. Alexander Sternhagen first a shot/pass toward the net and Max Brown deflected it to the far side where it bounced off Maillette's chest and into the net.
Unfortunately for Pines, they got into penalty trouble at the end of the period with penalties at 14:39, 16:27, and 17:00. This gave SPASH 1:27 of 5-on-3 hockey to open the third period.
SPASH capitalized 1:30 into the third. After a short scramble for a loose puck, SPASH's Marcus Prondzinski picked up the puck, with the Pine penalty kill all drawn to one side of the ice. He hit Kade Smigaj who was wide open in front and didn't miss the opportunity.
They added another goal, to take the lead, just 29 seconds later. Prondzinski again held the puck in at the point, and fired a shot toward the net. It was partially blocked but Trevor Herman was able to knock it in just before Wilkins was able to cover, giving SPASH a 3-2 lead.
SPASH's third goal of the period came just 1:44 later at the 3:43 mark. Noah Spurlin collected the puck behind the Pines net and fired it to a wide open Jacob Sankey in the slot. Sankey didn't miss and SPASH suddenly lead 4-2.
Pine would cut the lead to 4-3 just over a minute later. If you're keeping track, that means the teams combined for 4 goals in fewer than five minutes in the third period. Sternhagen held a puck in at the point, and fed Gunnar Schiffmann in the near side corner, and he walked toward the net and found Brady Snedden all alone in front to halve the lead.
SPASH would extend the lead to 5-3 at the 9:00 mark. Kade Smigaj and Aidan Boettcher came in on a 2-on-1. Boettcher came in on the board side and fed Smigaj in front, but he went right back to Boettcher who ended up all alone on the back door and just had to tap the puck in.
SPASH would add an empty netter from Dillingham to get to the final 6-3 score. Brett Wilkins had 19 saves in the loss for Pines, and Jonathan Nafe had 24 in the win for Pines. Nafe was outstanding, making just his third varsity start.
Pines was clearly the faster team and they handled the puck better, making a habit out of picking the pockets of Panther after Panther, but SPASH played a better game in the defensive zone, especially in front of the net where Pines consistently left SPASH players alone in a high percentage area.