Coming in to Thursday evening, Lakeland (3-0), Tomahawk (3-0) and Waupaca (3-0) stood unbeaten on the top of the Great Northern Conference standings.
Waupaca was in Mosinee, where they won 6-4 to improve to 4-0 in Conference play, and Lakeland was hosting Tomahawk in our Wisconsin Prep Hockey Game of the Week.
"Game of the week, conference game, solid opponent, what more could you ask for?" said Tomahawk coach Dewey Reilly, "the kids were looking forward to it, and both teams played hard."
The Hatchets survived a major penalty in the third period and eventually took a 4-3 win to keep pace with Waupaca at the top of the conference, while Lakeland fell a game behind.
Lakeland opened the scoring just 2:07 into the game. Gray Wagner snuck behind the Tomahawk defense and took a long lead pass from Kade Meyer. Tomahawk goalie stopped the first shot Trevor Seliskar was able to stop the initial shot, but Wagner was able to get a second chance and put it in for the early 1-0 lead.
The lead was shortlived however, as Tomahawk answered back at the 6:59 mark. While on the power play Jonah Dickens corralled the puck up high and weaved his way down low, drawing the defense to him, where he slid the puck to Logan Seymour who put it past Thunderbirds goalie Andrew Maulson to tie the game.
Tomahawk added another goal in the waning seconds of the first period. After killing a penalty of their own, Tomahawk got a short advantage on a delayed penalty on Lakeland, as Seliskar made is way to the Hatchet bench Austin Lamer fired a shot from the point and tucked it just inside the far post and past Maulson for a 2-1 lead at the end of the first period.
The Hatchets extended the lead to 3-1 just 1:28 into the second period. This time it was Seymour who corralled the puck down in the corner where he made a nifty pass to Dickens in front, and he one-timed it in.
Lakeland would get one back at the 3:40 mark on a shot from up high by Matt Haggart, Seliskar looked handcuffed on the play and couldn't make the stop as the Thunderbirds pulled within one.
Tomahawk tallied their final goal at the 5:01 mark of the second. Dickens force a Lakeland turnover in the Lakeland defensive zone and that sprung Brayden Lamer alone in front, to wrist it in uncontested and make it 4-2 after two periods.
While the shots were even in the first and second periods, Lakeland came out firing in the third period and poured on the pressure, outshooting Tomahawk 14-7 in the frame, but they were only able to add one goal, on a five-minute major power play to make it 4-3.
Wagner burned around the Tomahawk defense on the power play and hit Ian Dwyer in front for a one-timer goal.
Lakeland would threaten again with the goalie pulled, but they weren't able to capitalize and Tomahawk took the 4-3 win.
"I think our holiday tournament in Appleton was a great opportunity for us to see and compete against some great programs," said coach Reilly. "The shots and scores by period were a prime example that we are capable of skating with the better teams in the state."
"The final scores reinforced what can happen when we get away from our scheme and philosophy at any point. We put together two solid periods against all three opponents but didn't put complete games together," he added.
Seliskar stopped 33 of 36 for the Hatchets in the win. Maulson stopped 23 or 27 for the Thunderbirds.
Tomahawk's next game is Tuesday at Wisconsin Rapids. The Thunderbirds will be back in action on Saturday against RAM.