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Fast Start Lifts #3 Eau Claire North Over Wausau West

By Bill Berg Jr, WiPH Staff, 01/29/22, 8:45AM CST


The Eau Claire North Huskies made the trip down highway 29 to Marathon Park in Wausau to take on the host Warriors Thursday night and rolled to a 4-2 win on the back of a dominant start.

The Huskies dominated the first half of the first period and recorded the first nine shots on goal in the game en route to a quick 2-0 lead.

Gabe Bestul opened the scoring with a rebound goal off a Carter Plante shot just 1:51 into the period. 

Jack Kein got a good bounce at the 7:47 mark. He came around the net for a wrap around, but got taken off the puck. The puck continued out front and went in off a Warrior defenseman's skate to make it 2-0.

Things settled down after that as West adjusted to North's speed and the shots were 7-7 the rest of the way in the period.

West had their chances, with two hard work chances by Cade Gruber who muscled his way into scoring position.

Ask about his team's fast start North coach Ryan Parker said, "I think we don't have a lot of guys who are above and beyond everybody else. So I think with that our mentality is different, and we have to play more of a team game."

"Since we play such a team game, to get to where we are is nice because everybody wants to be that next guy. They want to get out there and they know they can contribute."

Nick Thompson extended the lead to 3-0 at 9:52 of the second period on a second rebound. Ty Thompson fired a shot from the point, and Brayton Thillman put the rebound on goal, but West goalie Adam Prokop was up to the task. Unfortunately Thompson was in position for the second rebound and buried it.

West finally got on the board at the 11:12 mark with a power play goal by Grant Halmsted. Judah Leder won the draw to Adam Napravnik who hit Halmsted for the goal.

North regained the three goal lead with time winding down in the period. The Thillman forced a turnover behind the West net and hit Hayden Bell out front for the score and the 3-1 lead after two periods.

"We had goals from all three lines last night," Parker said. "We knew that they had some good D, and obviously a goaltender that can play. We knew those would be important. Those situations, a lot of times, aren't pretty. Shot, rebound, rebound, and deflections."

Later in the third Gruber's hard work in the game paid off for West with a power play goal in the third period to make it 4-2. Gruber picked up the puck near center ice and bullied his way into the zone and scored five-hole.

North came into the game with a 85% success rate on the penalty kill, but West went 2-for-4 on the game.

"What changed a little bit there, was we had a couple hesitations on our PK. On one the weak forward crashed the strong d, and they went d-to-d for the goal," Parker said. "We're trying to get deeper on the PK and had some new guys out there. Trying to groom in some other guys to get some depth."

West earned a power play with 2:32 left in the game, and pulled Prokop to go up 6-on-4, but they weren't able to score and North captured the 4-2 win.

"You don't get a chance to practice 6-on-4," Parker said. "The biggest thing is that everybody wants to camp on the guy in front, or the back door. As long as your D stays mobile and doesn't lock into place, you can play it like a 5-on-4. They end up with more shots from the point, but you can't do much about that."

Adam Prokop had 42 saves in the game for the Warriors in the loss. They fall to 12-6-2 on the season. 

Tristan Block had 24 saves in the win for the Huskies who improve to 16-3 on the season.

Wausau travels to #1 Hudson on Saturday and North will take on #2 Eau Claire Memorial on Tuesday.

"With our schedule, its just Chippewa and before that it was Rice Lake and New Richmond," Parker said. "Every day you have to bring it, it seems like."

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