Merrill skaters wear down Red Raiders with verve
The Bluejay hockey team flew around the Smith Center ice last Tuesday, and the sheer weight of that hustle wore down visiting Medford over the course of the game.
The teams were tied at 1-1 after the first period despite much more Merrill pressure on goal, but the Jays turned it up in the second and third periods to close out a 7-1 triumph. MHS improved to 2-0 with the win.
“It was another good win,” MHS coach Chase Nelson said. “We were not as crisp and sharp as we would have liked to have been, but a win is a win. We out-shot Medford by a 2-to-1 margin, so that is an encouraging sign. Last year we played Medford three times and all three games featured 40 to 50 shots per team. Tonight we had 52 shots and only allowed 25 shots.
“Our fore-check was aggressive at times and that lead to some quality scoring chances. At other times, we did not have a good fore-check and it led to some quality scoring chances for Medford. We have to clear this up before we get into our conference schedule in January. Our defensive zone was better but we still have a ways to go there also.
“Stephen Simon played very well in net. Nick Hoffmann had a pure hattrick (three consecutive goals scored), which is rare to see. Our third line of Ryan Marsceau, Kyle Kleinschmidt, and Matt Ladewig did an excellent job of running our fore-check, and they created a ton of shots because they were positioned well.
“We lost Juuso Valtanen late in the first period and we had to do some shuffling of players, so to only give up one goal with some players not playing their natural position is an encouraging sign.”
Foreign exchange student Valtanen picked up a game-disqualification penalty at the end of the first period, when Merrill already had a player in the box, but the Jays were able to finish off the 5-on-3 situation and the power play without allowing a goal. The carry-over of the penalty helped Medford hold its only shot advantage of the night, at 16-12.
The Jays out-shot 19-5 in the first while playing to a 1-1 tie, but their huge 21-3 margin in the third turned a 3-1 game into the 7-1 rout.
The Red Raiders actually scored first, at the 8:00 mark of the first on a Jacob Kadlecek shot. But Hoffmann – a senior and two-year captain – took over with hustle and grit. He knotted it on a Dylan Heller assist just nine seconds after the Medford score, then scored a pair of Austin Burgener assists at the 13:01 and 15:41 marks of the second.
The Jays held the upper hand in the second period when playing at full strength. After a weak hooking call mid-period put them in another 5-on-3 hole, Nelson implored, “Guys, we’ve got to stay out of the box.”
The squad listened by never committing another penalty in the game, held off the Red Raiders again, then immediately attacked once at full strength. Hoffmann’s second goal of the game came directly off Burgener winning a face-off, and the third featured Hoffmann winning a scrum with several players on the ice.
The first two minutes of the third were marked by fluky plays of the puck getting stuck in a Medford player’s clothing and a barely-blocked shot from Brian Root flipped on top of the Red Raider goal.
Heller converted a quick dash and long shot for a 4-1 edge 3:18 into the third, and Root fed Michael Baumann with 11:05 elapsed.
Burgener scored a Jaako Holopainen assist just after a face-off with 1:58 left, and Heller closed it out with a long shot after a Burgener assist in the final minute.
Saves–MHS–Stephen Simon 5-16-3–24; Medford–Carter Jamieson 18-10-17–45.
Merrill played Baldwin-Woodville on Tuesday.