Eau Claire Memorial came out swinging in the first period of the consolation game of the Red Flint Rock and Stone Meltdown, defeating the Superior Spartans 5-3 to take third place in the tournament.
The first few minutes of the first period found a lot of aggressive play but not many shots on net. But when Jake Bresser found the back of the net on ECM’s first shot of the game at three minutes and 59 seconds into the period, he kicked off ECM’s scoring torrent. Charley Graaskamp and Tye McLaughlin earned assists on the play.
Bresser commented on the chemistry between himself and Graaskamp, having played together since their time in youth hockey, “We stuck together, and I just love playing with him. He finds me; I find him. Hopefully we have another good year, and we’ll see what we put together at the end. I just love playing with him. He’s got great vision, and we always seems to find me, which is nice.”
Soon after the first score, penalties on Superior’s Jesse Polson and Mitch Anderson for cross-checking and hooking respectively gave ECM a 5-on-3 advantage.
Just 16 seconds into the powerplay, Graaskamp found Chuck Bennis, who was able to capitalize from mid-slot.
The Old Abes scored twice more in the first period, tallying four of their five total goals in the first 17 minutes of play. Graaskamp got a goal of his own at 11:35 in the period, and tallied another assist to give him a playmaker on Bresser’s second goal of the night just 16 seconds before the period ended.
The second period, however, belonged to Superior.
Plagued by penalties, ECM struggled to tame the Spartans who were fighting to catch up. Superior’s first goal of the night occurred on a 2-man advantage 11:50 into the period.
Aaron Miller got ahold of the rebound from Daniel Burger’s shot, and stuffed it past ECM’s Alex Geving. Jesse Polson also earned an assist on the goal.
A cross-checking penalty on Tye McLaughlin gave Superior another opportunity to score. Daniel Mikel capitalized with a shot that went right past Geving’s glove side.
McLaughlin was assessed a boarding penalty, which gave Superior the advantage coming into the third period.
Although ECM outshot Superior 24-12 in the first two periods, it was “a tale of two games,” as Coach Mike Schwengler said.
While ECM was able to kill off the 5-minute penalty, Superior struck again just 10 seconds after the penalty had expired. Anthony Bronson tightened ECM’s lead to just one with his goal.
The energy was almost tangible in the rink for the entire third period, and both goaltenders made crucial saves.
With 33 seconds left to play, Superior pulled their netminder, Paxton Paine, in an attempt to tie it up.
Chuck Bennis sank an unassisted empty net goal, his second goal of the night, to ensure the win.
“You can’t get complacent. You’ve gotta come out and put your best foot forward each game, and we tried to do that. Today, we came out and played Old Abe hockey, and it worked out for us,” said Graaskamp reflecting on the third place finish.