Hobbs ice Arena in Eau Claire was packed and fired up on Thursday night for a rematch of the top two teams in the state, with Big Rivers Conference honors on the line. As they did in their first meeting, the Hudson Raiders came away victors over the Eau Claire Memorial Old Abes, this time by a score of 4-2.
“It was an awesome atmosphere last night,” said Hudson head coach Davis Drewiske. “With covid restrictions over the last couple of years, I almost forgot what it was like to have a full house and pep band and that kind of energy in a building. Great experience for our team to go on the road and win against a good team. There’s a lot that goes into it, but the bottom line is that we’ve been struggling lately and we needed a win like that to get us going back in the right direction.”
Special teams accounted for four of the six goals scored, but it was a strange looking even-strength goal that got things started for the Raiders just over two minutes into the first period. A neutral zone turn over and a collision at the blue line that looked like an obvious offside lead to an odd man rush for Hudson. Zach Kochendorfer passed to Mathew Mauer who fired a shot from in close past ECM goalie Will Seymour.
Late in the period, with Hudson on the power play, a Memorial forward had a chance in the neutral zone to ice the puck, but hung onto it too long and turned it over. Hudson got it back into the zone and to the front of the net. While battling in the slot, an Eau Claire defenseman broke his stick, which made it harder for the Old Abes to clear the puck from in front. Carter Mears was able to coral the puck and get a shot past Seymour.
The Raiders started the second period on the power play but found it slow going. There was quite a bit of standing water left on the ice from the resurfacing, and the puck kept getting stuck, eventually causing Hudson to take a hooking penalty after a water-related turnover. ECM coach Mike Collins called the linesman over to see if they could wait a little while to let the ice set. The linesman called one of the referees over, and he explained that they couldn’t hold up the play since the period had already been started. But the whole discussion took enough time that it did allow the ice to set up better for the Old Abes power play.
On the ensuing power play, Luke Lindsay rang a shot off the pipe that bounced out and hit Hudson goalie Aiden Tepper-Engh in the back, then fell behind him, just inches in front of the goal line. Before Tepper-Engh could figure out where the puck was, Connor Byrne was able to get to it and poke it into the open net, cutting the Hudson lead to 2-1.
The Raiders were able to get their two goal lead back late in the period on a two on one rush. Carson Strapon carried the puck into the Old Abes zone and skated wide, taking the defenseman with him. Then Strapon passed to Alex Pottratz in the slot, and Pottratz beat Seymor with his shot.
“Both teams scored two power play goals so that was a wash,” added Drewiske. “I was glad we got a couple of even strength goals and some production out of our second line. The expectation is for our power play to be a difference maker every time we play. Same for our penalty kill…we didn’t get the job done there last night so we’ve got to keep improving. A constant message to our kids is that if we are great defenders it will lead to plenty of opportunities for offense.”
Both team defenses were strong in the game, not allowing many chances from in close during five on five play. The Raiders were able to work the puck inside during a power play early in the third period, getting it to Pottratz, who scored from the top of the crease making the score 4-1.
The Old Abes responded with a power play goal of their own three minutes later, cutting the deficit to 4-2. Peyton Platter used the defenseman as a screen and fired a shot between his legs from the left faceoff dot.
Seymour finished the night stopping 27 of 31 shots, while Tepper-Engh blocked 20 of 22.
Drewiske commented, “It was a step in the right direction for us, but there are certainly things that we need to clean up and have to improve on down the stretch in order to get to where we want to be. Credit to Memorial for a hard fought game.”