In 2022, the Lakeland Thunderbirds went into the Great Northern Conference tournament as the #1 seed, but dropped the conference tournament championship to Mosinee before turning around and beating Mosinee in a the sectional final to head down to Madison.
Stop me if you've heard this before but in 2023, the Lakeland Thunderbirds went into the Great Northern Conference tournament as the #1 seed, but dropped the conference tournament championship to Mosinee before turning around and meeting them in the sectional final to head down to Madison.
The Thunderbirds were looking for "Déjà vu all over again" on Saturday at the Mosinee City Recreation Center in Mosinee, but it was not to be as they were only able to crack Mosinee goalie Aiden Karst once, and Mosinee took a 2-1 win and booked their ticket to Madison.
Where the Thunderbirds looked lost and confused on offense back on Feb. 11 against Mosinee, they came out firing on Saturday, out shooting Mosinee 10-5 in the first period, and playing stifling defense in their own zone.
Karst made several scrambling staves in the waning minutes of the period to preserve the 0-0 tie heading into the first intermission.
A Matt Haggart head contact major penalty as time expired in the first period gave Mosinee a long powerplay to open the second period. It took a while but they capitalized.
After four minutes of power play time on the major with nothing to show for it Elliot Yirkovsky fired a shot toward the net, but it bounced off some shin guards in front and out to Caden Schmirler who buried it to give Mosinee the 1-0 lead.
There is stayed for the next 12 minutes until with 0:59 left in the frame Gray Wagner found the puck during mad scramble in front of the Mosinee net and put it in to tie the game at 1.
It wouldn't stay tied for long however, as Yirkovsky acquired the puck at the top of the zone and fired a slapper on net through traffic. It hit off Lakeland goalie Max Masayesva's blocker and bounced into the net for a 2-1 lead after two periods.
Lakeland continued their pressure well into the third period, outshooting Mosinee 12-6 in the frame, but they weren't able to crack Karst again, and they weren't able to try to pull their goalie until there were just 16 seconds left on the clock. Unfortunately for the Thunderbirds that wasn't enough.
Great Northern Co-Player of the Year Masayesva stopped 19 of 21 in the loss for Lakeland, who were the section two representative in Madison each of the last two years.
Karst stopped 29 of 30 for Mosinee, and the .967 save percentage was the sophomore's highest of the season when facing 30 shots or more, and the second highest of his career when facing 30 or more, behind his 44 save shutout of these same Thunderbirds in the 2022 GNC championship game.