In the Dr. Seuss book, The Lorax, the title character tells everyone he 'speaks for the trees.'
On a mild early January evening at the South Wood County Rec Center, seniors J.J. Berdal, Ryan Begley, and Brendan Hoover did just that for the team with an Evergreen symbol on the front of their sweaters, as they played well to lead D.C. Everest past Wisconsin Valley Conference foe Wisconsin Rapids 6-2.
DCE, 7-1-1 in the last four weeks of play, scored early twice in the first period to take a 2-0 lead in just over three minutes of action.
First, Hoover cleaned up on a rebound past Rapids goalie Tanner Reany to take a 1-0 lead, with an assist to Brennen Herwig. Then just under two minutes after that, Ben Weller lost the puck as he was crossing through the slot area, only to have the puck roll over to Berdal near the right side of the net, and he banged it home for the two-goal lead. Weller and Davis Hackbarth earned helpers on the play.
Ben Peloquin almost tacked on another score for Everest, but his shot from the slot area bounced off the right post midway through the stanza.
Then, as time was winding down in the period, Ty Tretter found himself 'kinda sorta' all alone after a pass at the backdoor, but with a defender closing on him, the shot sailed wide left with 80 seconds left in the first.
That's how the period ended, with Reany stopping 16 of 18 shots for the Red Raiders, while DCE netminder Michael Janke turned aside all three shots sent his way at the other end of the ice.
The Evergreens continued to work on the 'score early' theory, as they tacked on another goal just 1:18 into the middle period.
Begley got his first goal of the game when he scored from close-in to make it 3-0 DCE, with assists to Tretter and Berdal.
The score became 4-0 when Begley converted on a 3-on-1 rush with just over ten minutes left in the period, with a nice snipe from the bottom of the right circle that flew past Reany's glove hand, on a pass coming from Berdal as he steamed down the slot.
Colton Flammini almost got Rapids into the scoring column midway through the period, but Janke stopped a backhander on a semi-breakaway.
Reany returned the favor with just under three minutes left, as a shot from the slot hit his pad and bounced over it, landing just to the right side of the net where the puck was cleared by an alert Rapids defender.
The Evergreens missed on a good 2-on-1 chance when Weller pitchforked his shot over the net with just 10 seconds left, keeping the score at 4-0, and that's what the scoreboard showed as the horn sounded to end the period.
Reany was busy again for Rapids, making 14 saves on 16 shots. Janke was busier than his first period, stopping six of six fired at him.
The final period saw a combined four goals, with each team scoring on the man advantage, while DCE threw in a shorty for good measure.
This time Rapids scored early, with Isaac Gilbert notching a power play goal from the front at the 2:11 mark. Flammini and Isaac Evenson were given assists on the play that changed the scoreboard to 4-1.
Not to be outdone, Everest got that goal right back two minutes later while on a power play of its own, courtesy of a Begley tip of a blast from the left point by Jacob Jakusz, with another helper to Hackbarth.
It was still 5-1 when an Everest penalty sent out the PK unit of the green-clad Evergreens. But that was okay, as Berdal tallied his second from the left circle for the short-handed goal. The freshman Hackbarth earned an assist, giving him a playmaker in the contest.
Flammini closed out the scoring with just over four minutes left, beating the DCE goalie with a back-hander from the left side, with an assist to Nick Campbell.
Janke was the busier of the two goalkeepers in the final stanza, making 11 saves in the period for a game total of 21. Reany stopped five shots, making his final tally read 34 saves.
Everest improved to 9-4-1 (3-2 WVC), while Rapids dropped to 6-7-1 (2-3 WVC).