In a game of scoring extremes, the West Salem Panthers scored both of their goals in the first three minutes of the first two periods, while the New Richmond Tigers tallied theirs in the last two minutes of the first two periods to take home a 3-2 win Saturday afternoon in the Wisconsin Rapids Hodag tournament.
West Salem took an early lead in the first period when Jack Gorniak's shot from the right side was stopped by NR goalie Jake Erickson, but the rebound bounced out to the stick of Joseph Oldendorf, and he somehow squeezed the puck past the netminder for a 1-0 advantage.
Each squad had a power play chance late in the period, but it was New Richmond that was successful.
With a little over a minute left in the opening stanza, Pearson fired a shot from the high slot that snuck past the glove of WS goalie Mitch Hammes for the equalizer. Nick Johnson earned a helper on the power play goal.
As the period wound down to its waning seconds, a icing call on West Salem forced a faceoff in the Panthers' d-zone, to the right of Hammes. With just three seconds left to play, it appeared that the teams would skate off deadlocked after 17 minutes of play.
Pearson took the draw and pushed the puck forward to the left of the goalie, where Noah Towberman beat his man to the puck and slid it into the goal past a scrambling Hammes as the clock ticked down to 2.1 seconds.
New Richmond then skated off with a one-goal lead, although trailing in shots on goal, 10-9.
The Panthers came out fired up in the second, determining to get back into the game and did just that three minutes in.
A New Richmond defenseman had the puck in the right corner and lost it to Ryan Beirne, who skated a couple strides to the right dot and pinged the puck off the pipe past the left pad of Erickson to tie the game at two apiece.
The middle of the period included three power plays (two for NR, one for WS) that ended in failure before the Tigers got another opportunity late in the period.
With less than two minutes left, Pearson sent a shot from the high slot through traffic that appeared to bounce off a defender's shin pad, just enough to deflect past the glove of Hammes to give the Tigers a 3-2 lead with 1:52 left. Johnson and Cole Thomas were given assists on the power play goal.
Shot were 8-7 in favor of West Salem in the period.
The final period was scoreless, but the Panthers were so close, yet so far away with three chances to tie the game.
The first was early—within the early period scoring zone for WS—but the Panthers were unable to capitalize on a too many men call that gave them 120 seconds of man advantage.
The second was in the middle of the period when a loose rebound hung tantalizingly in the crease off the Tiger goalie, but was cleared away a fraction of a second before a West Salem forward could knock it in.
Finally, as time was winding down and Coach Eric Borre summoned goalie Hammes for an extra attacker with about 60 seconds to play in regulation, Gorniak put a shot on net with three seconds left and the rebound, once again unattended, was snapped harmlessly into the corner as New Richmond (16-7) celebrated its fourth straight victory and eighth of the last nine.
West Salem fired eight shots compared to New Richmond's seven in the period. Erickson earned the win for NR with 24 saves, while Hammes stopped 20 shots for West Salem, who dropped to 19-3-1.
Both squads continue play next week in the playoffs. New Richmond, the third-seed in Section 1, will host #6 River Falls Friday.
In Section 4, top-seeded West Salem waits for the winner of the Sauk Prairie-Tomah contest.