Panthers secure a third straight trip to sectionals
The SPASH boys’ hockey team defeated No. 7-seeded Eau Claire North 6-3 on Feb. 16.
By Jacob Heid
STEVENS POINT – Another successful start to the playoffs for the SPASH boys’ hockey team began with a defeat of the Huskies from Eau Claire North on Feb. 16.
A close opening frame led to the Panthers separating in the second period with two unanswered goals.
The No. 2-ranked Panthers advanced to sectionals with a 6-3 win.
SPASH drew first blood on its home ice with 12:42 left in the first period.
Matthew Eiden let one fly from the left circle, giving SPASH an early lead.
Eau Claire North didn’t let that lead stay for long.
The Huskies found the equalizer with 7:43 left in the period, knotting the game at 1-1.
Both sides showcased speed as they chased pucks the length of the ice.
SPASH’s Jackson Schroeder raced down the slot and connected with the back of the net with four minutes left in the first.
That made it a 2-1 game, which was the score at the first intermission.
The Panthers kept the goals coming in the second period.
SPASH held the Huskies scoreless in the second period, extending the lead 4-1 after two.
Senior Kade Smigaj found his first of two goals to give the Panthers a two-goal lead, 3-1.
Eau Claire North had back-to-back chances on goaltender Hunter Christjohn, finding the pipe on both attempts.
Those two chances haunted the Huskies as SPASH spread the lead to three in the closing four minutes of the second.
Eau Claire North had a total of three shots hit the post in the second, which was its deficit heading into the final period.
The Huskies answered to begin the third, netting a breakaway goal to get the deficit back to two, 4-2.
The clock continued to tick down to the final buzzer.
SPASH scored its fifth goal of the game with four minutes remaining, and Smigaj netted an empty netter with 30 seconds left to make it a safe 6-2 lead.
The Huskies found one more even-strength goal before the buzzer sounded.
SPASH is now the highest-seeded team left in its sectional after No. 1-ranked Eau Claire Memorial got upset by No. 8-seed Wisconsin Rapids.
The Panthers host No. 3 Superior on Tuesday, Feb. 21, at 7 p.m.