Jace Fitzgerald scored one goal and assisted on the other two in leading the Rice Lake Warriors to a 3-1 win over the Lakeland Thunderbirds in the opening game of the Division 2 State Tournament at the Alliant Energy Center Thursday morning.
In front of a large and spirited crowd, both teams put everything they had into the game with action up and down the ice.
Five minutes into the first period, Rice Lake turned over the puck in the neutral zone, Cooper Fink skated in alone but was stopped by Warrior goalie Ian Krance. Less than a minute later, JJ Albee took a wrist shot from the high slot that Fink deflected over Krance to give the T-Birds an early 1-0 lead.
With just over a minute left in the period, Jace Fitzgerald picked off a breakout pass just inside the blue line and fed a pass to Adam Timm. Timm skated to the top of the right face off circle, did a nifty toe drag to get away from the T-Bird defenseman and then fired a shot past Lakeland goalie Max Maseyasva to tie the game.
Maseyasva stopped 6 of 7 shots in the first period, while Krance saved 7 of 8.
At 4:28 in the second period, Fitzgerald caught a pass just outside the Lakeland blue line, skated into the right face off circle and roofed a shot over Maseyasva for a 2-1 Rice Lake lead.
There was no more scoring in the second period. The Warriors outshot the T-Birds 10-8 in frame.
Rice Lake was able to increase their lead a minute and a half into a major penalty in the third period. Cole Fenske fired a shot from the blue line through heavy traffic that Maseyasva never saw to make the score 3-1.
Lakeland put on some furious pressure late in the third, including a redirected shot that hit the right post, but they could not score.
Rice Lake advances to play the second-seeded St. Mary’s Springs Ledgers on Saturday morning.