Mosinee and Rhinelander came into last night's tilt in Mosinee with just one conference loss on the books, and seeding the Great Northern Conference tournament on the line.
In the end, while Mosinee controlled much of the play, it was Rhinelander who came away with a 6-3 win over the host team.
Despite Mosinee owning time of possession in the first period, it was Rhinelander who left the period with a 1-0 lead. Defenseman Sam Schneider came streaking down the left side of the ice on a three-on-two, and rather than pass, it took it himself and fired a wrister into the glove side corner to give the Hodags the early lead.
"Five-on-five Mosinee had great chances and really had us pinned in our own end at times," said Rhinelander coach MJ Laggis. "Garrett Kulhanek made some really nice saves and kept us in there at points as did a scrappy group of defensemen that made some clutch plays clearing pucks."
While Mosinee only outshot Rhinelander 9-6 in the first period, they had many shots blocked or fired wide of the goal frame.
After both teams killed off 5-on-3 power plays Rhinelander would extend the lead to 3-0 in the second period. Layne Roeser picked up a fumbled puck by Mosinee in their defensive zone and put a shot into the low-blocker corner to make it 2-0.
They added a power play goal to make it 3-0. Cal Laggis controlled the puck behind the Mosinee net and fired out front to the waiting Joey Belanger to knock it in and give Rhinelander a commanding lead.
Mosinee didn't wait around though and came right on back. Ondrej Napravnik fired in a wrister from the faceoff dot on the power play to cut the lead to two.
And just about 30 seconds later Tanner Fjelsted fired a knuckle-puck shot from the point that tied up goalie Garret Kulhanek, and Grant Kuklinski tapped it in to cut the lead to just one after two periods of play.
"We got two goals out of defensemen Sam Schneider and another out of Defenseman Layne Roeser, so our D producing like that is a difference maker for us in games like that," said Laggis.
"I think that we need to really focus on playing solid fundamental defense no matter who our opponent is," said Mosinee coach Troy Michalski. "I also think that we need to commit as a team to blocking shots, not only to help out our goaltenders but I also think it drives excitement throughout the team if players sacrifice to make a play."
Schneider picked up his second goal of the game just 2:08 into the third period. The Hodags won the draw back to Schneider at the point and he fired it in to make it a 4-2 game.
Two minutes later Mosinee would tally again, Napravnik and AJ Buenning came in on a two-on-one and Napravnik lifted his pass over the defenseman's stick to Buenning who buried it to bring it back to within one, but that would be all the scoring Mosinee would manage.
After goals by Leo Losch and Belandger's second made it 6-3, Mosinee pulled their goalie, Aiden Karst, with 4 minutes left and he never went back in.
In those four minutes Mosinee had a power play as well, and many chances on the Hodag net but weren't able to score and 6-3 is how it would end.
"I thought Rhinelander did a good job capitalizing on their opportunities last night and blocked a lot of shots. We had a few breakdowns defensively that cost us at times," said Michalski. "I thought that we put on good offensive zone pressure most of the night but had a hard time finding the back of the net and we had to work hard to get shots through."
"They were minus a leading scorer Carter Dahl so they are going to be a really tough team to handle the next opportunity we get to play them," Laggis said, "I like our team effort and attitude last night, but Mosinee is a tough customer with really good depth!"
If they are going to meet again this second it'll be in the Great Northern Conference tournament, or in the section two playoffs.
Kulhanek had 28 saves in the win for Rhinelander who improve to 5-1 in the Great Northern and 13-4 overall. Karst had 18 saves in the loss for Mosinee who fall to 5-2 in the Great Northern and 11-8 overall.