You can usually ride a hot goalie to a victory and even though Rapids' Torger Stachurski was significantly warmer than the temperature outside, isn't wasn't quite enough as host SPASH edged the Red Raiders 2-1 on a chilly Tuesday night at the KB Willett Arena in D1, Sectional 1 first round play.
The thermometer read 20 degrees at game time, but had a much colder 'real feel' temp with 20 MPH winds gusting from the west.
Inside the 'KBW,' a pair of teams that fell on some hard times this season squared off for the third time in the 2019-20 campaign. The Panthers had beaten Rapids twice in Wisconsin Valley Conference play and were going for the sweep.
Point came into the contest saddled with a four-game losing streak, but in their defense, three of the games were against Top 6 opponents (Notre Dame, Verona, Wausau West).
The Panthers kept pressure on Rapids from the puck drop and appeared to grab an early lead, but the officials decided for some unknown reason that the Point goal did not count at the 43 second mark. The '1' was taken off the scoreboard, my 'goal' detail listing in my notebook was crossed out, and the puck was dropped to the right of the Rapids netminder as the game once again became scoreless.
Each team had a power play chance in the first, but the PK units and netminders reigned supreme as the stanza ended with a 0-0 mark. Stachurski flashed a wicked glove, stopping 22 of 22, while SPASH goalie Spencer Wierzba was also perfect, making four saves.
After each team failed to take advantage of penalties, SPASH got on the board first in the middle period.
The Red Raiders goalie made the initial stop, but Will Mason popped in the loose puck for his fifth goal of the season to give the home fans something to cheer about as the Panthers took a 1-0 lead at 7:19 of the second period. Austin Conley and Aidan Boettcher were given helpers on the play.
Just over three minutes later, Rapids came in on a 2-on-1 break. Carson Gunderson carried the puck down the left side and when the defender leaned too much, sent a pass across the slot to Cobe Acker, who wristed the puck past Wierzba to tie the contest at one apiece. Dane Kubisiak also had an assist. The goal was Acker's team-leading 17th of the season.
The horn sounded on a 1-1 game after two. Stachurski made 15 saves in the period, while Wierzba stopped eight pucks.
The third period saw a handful of missed opportunities early for both teams, but SPASH would not fail in the middle of the period.
Boettcher had the puck on the left side of the slot, weaved over to the right, and then snuck the biscuit between the left pad of Stachurski and the post for the go ahead tally. Matthew Eiden and Mason Keller assisted on the senior's fourth goal of the season at the 8:57 mark.
Each goalie excelled in the final half of the period, keeping pucks out of their respective nets. With the game still 2-1, Stachurski came out for a extra attacker with just under a minute to go, but the Panthers hung on for the one-goal win.
Wierzba stopped nine pucks to end with a game total of 21, while Stachurski caught or kicked aside 13 shots for a total of 50, which was his 9th 50+ save game of the year.
Rapids dropped to 10-14-1 and will say goodbye to three seniors (Stachurski, Acker, and Andrew Sparks).
SPASH improved to 12-11-1 and will take on #1 seed Hudson Thursday night at Gornick Arena in regional action.