Wausau West scored five goals in the first 34 minutes of play and then hung on in a wild finish to defeat host Wisconsin Rapids 5-3 in the WiPH Game of the Week held Thursday evening at the South Wood County Rec Center.
When asked afterwards about his team's performance, West coach Pete Susens noted that 'we played two good periods.'
That would prove to be enough, although Rapids made the game very interesting by scoring twice in a span of ten seconds early in the third period to cut the lead to 5-3.
But then West's PK units killed off eight minutes of penalties in the final period, including 1:38 of 5-on-3 to preserve the victory.
The game was scoreless for almost half of the first period, partially due to Adam Parsell's nice defensive play on a Rapids 3-on-1 bust-out about six minutes in.
Kevin Conley opened the scoring by tapping in a rebound at 8:21, with helpers going to Cale Bowman and Alex Gessler.
Just over a minute later, Logan Clemment gathered in a pass from Zach Peterson and converted to give the guests a 2-0 lead at the 9:31 mark.
Rapids cut the lead in half when Cody Kohls grabbed a lead pass that bounced over the stick of a West defender and ripped a hard shot from the top of the right circle past West goalie Sam Wiegert at 12:32. Casey Esselman earned the assist.
It looked like West would skate off with a one-goal lead, but Justin Anderson scored with just 46 seconds left to give the visitors a 3-1 lead that they would carry into the locker room. Justin Zahn and Drew Pearson would be credited with assists on the play.
West held a commanding 15-6 shot edge in the period.
The second period was scoreless until late, when the Warriors added to their lead on a play that frustrated the Rapids bench. On a faceoff to the left of Rapids goalie Tyler Gilbert, the official dropped the puck before a fifth Rapids player could get into position due to a late change and Peterson took advantage of that when he snapped a shot that beat the Rapids goalie.
Coaches Pat McDonald and Jeff Gunderson tried to make their case that the goal shouldn't count, but the '4' remainined on the scoreboard with 3:05 left in the period. Clemment got an assist on the play.
With just under two minutes left in the period, Pearson got into good position in front of the net and re-directed Parsells' shot from the point to make the score 5-1. Shots were 13-9 in the period, advantage West.
The quick-strike offense of Rapids showed in the third period when the Red Raiders scored twice in ten seconds just over three minutes in. Kohls scored on another shot from the right circle for his second goal and then on the ensuing faceoff, Matt Edwards scored a goal on a shot that took a weird bounce and ended up in the back of the net, with assists to Caleb Schroer and Esselman.
Then the West penalty kill stepped up and did what they were supposed to do: keep the puck out of the net.
The Warriors killed off eight penalty minutes, including the aforementioned 5-on-3. Wiegert was well-tested in the period, stopping 17 of 19 shots.
Gilbert came off with just over a minute left for an extra attacker, but Rapids was unable to score and came up on the short end of a 5-3 game.
Wiegert ended with 31 saves for West (7-3), while Gilbert was busy also, stopping 30 pucks for Rapids (11-1).