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Blanck, Special Teams Power Springs Past Neenah for Badgerland Crown

By Bill Berg Jr, WiPH Staff, 02/06/22, 11:30AM CST


In their first meeting, just 11 days prior to the Badgerland Tournament championship game, the Neenah/Hortonville/Menasha Rockets beat the Saint Mary's Springs Ledgers 7-5, powered by three power play goals in the third period to create a three-way tie atop the Badgerland Conference standings.

The Rockets wouldn't repeat their performance in the tournament championship however, and the Ledgers used two power play goals and a short handed goal to win 6-2 over the Rockets.

"We always love playing Neenah," said Springs coach John Welsch. "Jeff has his team ready for a great battle every time. These are great games for both of us to play heading into the play-offs."

Josh Austin opened the scoring for the Ledgers at exactly the half way point of the first period. Talan Blanck hit him in the slot and Austin fired a snap shot to give the Ledgers a 1-0 lead.

Blanck would extend the lead to 2-0 in the final minute of the period with Neenah on the power play.  He deked a Rocket defender right out of his skates and came in alone to bury the breakaway and make it 2-0.

The teams combined to take just seven shots in the first period. Five for Springs, and two for Neenah.

"Shots were lower on both sides," said Welsch. "That’s typical of a championship conference game,  teams can tend to play to not make gaping mistakes."

Neenah came out hot to start the second period but a slashing penalty at the three minute mark put them on the penalty kill and Springs was able to capitalize again. The power play goal was Blanck's second goal of the game.

Before the power play Neenah had evened the shot total at 8 a piece and put good pressure on the Springs net, but by the time Blanck ended the power play Springs had jumped back out to a 16-8 shot advantage.

Ian Sabel extended the lead at 13:37 of the second with a wrister from the point, which prompted a goaltending change for Neenah.

Neenah would get on the board at the 14:51 mark.  Ian Engel fired a long lead pass down the ice to a streaking Gabe Randel who came in all alone on Springs goalie Hayden Rising to make it 4-1.

Neenah opened the third period with another strong bit of play, but again it was broken up by penalties. A high-stick put Springs on the man advantage, and an interference and unsportsmanlike conduct well behind the play made it a two-man advantage.

"It is tough to keep the momentum when you go on the PK," said Rockets coach Jeff Lindemann. "We need to control what we can control and the referee’s are not in the group."

Dayne Deanovich buried one on the two-man advantage to put Springs up 5-1 at 7:22 of the third.

Neenah would get one back at 12:56 on a great individual effort by Luke Sutton. The defense knocked the puck away from him on a two-on-one, but he fought through the defender and regained the puck to come in alone on Rising and bury it to make it 5-2.

"Luke is a great kid, works hard day in and day out," said Lindemann. "He lived in is brother Drew’s shadow last year and this year he is really finding his spot on the team.  When he does well the team does well, a lot of the guys are Luke Sutton fans."

That would be it for Neenah however, and Blanck would add an empty netter to make it 6-2 for a final. That would be a hat trick for Blanck, and playmaker for Austin.

"Talan will be the first one to tell you, he plays with two high end seniors Dayne Deanovich and Josh Austin," said Welsch. "They can open space for him, and then he has a gear only the elite players can kick in."

"Very talented first line, maybe one of the best we have seen all year," said Lindemann. "Great group of young underclass men backing them up."

Rising had 13 saves in the win for the Ledgers. Caleb Moore had 13 saves to start for Neenah, and Jaeden Hannus added another 5, as neither team cracked 30 shots.

"Todays loss highlighted a few things we need to shore up before the playoffs start," said Lindemann. "If we can get those things cleaned up we will be ok. Bottom line is we need to play better than we did today."

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