The Lakeland Thunderbirds fell behind the Mosinee Indians by a score of 4-1 just four minutes into the second period, but battled back to win 5-4 in Mosinee on Thursday night.
These teams met in two high-profile game last February. Mosinee took the first match 3-0 to claim the Great Northern Conference Championship. Two weeks later, Lakeland prevailed 3-1 in the Sectional Final game to earn a trip to the State Tournament.
The T-Birds were handicapped by the absence of their all-conference goalie, Max Masayesva. “Max got a little dinged up at the end of the football season but he’s very close to returning and we expect to have him back soon” said Lakeland head coach Jake Suter. “In the meantime though we have two other goalies who are very good. We’re very fortunate to have three goalies on our roster who are all starter caliber goaltenders.”
The Indians jumped out to a 2-1 lead in the first period with two long-range missiles fired by Caden Schmirler, the second one just clipping the bottom of the crossbar, sandwiched around Jack Rubo tally for Lakeland.
“I was extremely proud of Andrew (Maulson) last night”, said Suter. “He let in those two goals early but after watching the video he was screened on both of them. Not to mention that both were great shots. He bounced back very well from that and made some huge saves for us. Without his great play in the second and third we have no chance of getting the win without him last night.”
That second period started out shaky for the T-Birds, with Mosinee stretching the lead with two more goals in the first four minutes, one by Grant Kuklinski and the other from Schmirler, completing his hattrick. Coach Suter used his timeout at that point to settle his squad down. “I’d love to say I had a great speech that rallied the troops for that comeback win but it’s got nothing to do with me. The kids didn’t quit and they’ve realized early on that hockey is a game filled with peaks and valleys and that no matter what happens or what the score is, their mindset can’t change. Our mantra has been ‘You’re never as good as you think and you’re never as bad as you think.’”
The T-Birds rally started with a power play on a rebound put into the net by Al Meyer. That was followed by a short-handed breakaway goal by Brent Olson. Jack Rubo tied the score with just 35 ticks left in the period with a shot from the high slot.
Mosinee out-shot Lakeland 18-10 in the second, but the score was knotted up at 4 goals each, settng up for some third period drama.
Three and a half minutes in, Mike Kosman fought his way toward the right side of the net and fired a shot on Indians goalie Aiden Karst. Karst made the save, but the rebound trickled across the top of the crease. Kort Meyer won the race to the loose puck and put a backhand shot under the lunging Karst.
The Indians continued to pour on the pressure, but Lakeland kept them at bay to hold on for the win.
Are these teams destined to repeat last season’s dominance of the Great Northern Conference and Division 2, Section 2? Suter doesn’t think so, “In my opinion the GNC is wide open for anyone’s taking this year. Teams change and grow so much throughout the season that you never know what’s going to happen each year. Our goal is compete and grow each night so that we’re playing our best hockey come playoff time.”