With perhaps the biggest game in program history looming against Northland Pines on Monday, Lakeland/Tomahawk had four games in three days to prepare.
That stretch started on Thursday night at Lakeland Hawks Ice Arena with a matchup against the Central Wisconsin Storm - a co-op of D.C. Everest, Marathon, Merrill, Mosinee, Wausau East and Wausau West - before traveling to Beaver Dam for a three-game tournament on Friday and Saturday.
Storm blanks T-Birds
Much like the week before, the Thunderbirds hosted a co-op with more resources at their disposal and played a tough game.
Similar to the previous week's game against Wisconsin Valley Union, Lakeland struggled to keep the puck out of the net and couldn't muster much offense in a 4-0 defeat.
"Goaltending's a little bit of an issue right now," Lakeland/Tomahawk head coach Steve Bucklew said. "The last game was six goals on 20 shots, today it started off in the first period with two goals on four shots. That's not going to get it done. We do have to put the puck in the net, but when you're playing a team like this, you have to hold them to as low as you possibly can. You're not going to win 7-6."
Mariah Lear got the start between the pipes for the T-Birds, and the Storm beat her for two goals in the opening period, both by Emelia Edmondson.
Anna Maulson was inserted in the second period and Edmondson got the natural hat trick 11 seconds in.
The freshman netminder was able to settle in afterwards, allowing just one more goal, coming with 1:40 left in the game.
Lakeland had its chances, however, but couldn't bury any of its chances in a game where the Storm won the shot battle, 22-16.
"We had some chances. Putting the puck in the net has been an issue all year," Bucklew said. "We've got a nice stretch of four games here and then the big game is on Monday."
Maulson made 14 saves on 16 shots on net for Lakeland.
Edmondson tallied an assist on a goal by Emma Kysely to finish with four points on the night.
Beaver Dam Tournament
Lakeland/Tomahawk continued its weekend at a tournament hosted by the Fond du Lac/Beaver Dam co-op, starting on Friday night.
The hosts blanked the T-Birds, 6-0, in the first game of the tournament, but they were able to bounce back to play a pair of strong games the following day.
In the first game on Saturday, Lakeland took a 1-0 lead over Brookfield in the first period thanks to a goal by Asucena Boyer, but the lead didn't last long.
Brookfield tied the game later in the first period and scored three in a row in the second during a stretch of 3:12.
Hadley Malcomson scored three of those goals to put the T-Birds in a hole. Makayla Fultz scored on assists from Isabelle and Asucena Boyer in the second to cut into the lead, while Maggie Wohlleber scored in the third on a pass from Isabelle Boyer, but Lakeland was never able to get the equalizer in a 4-3 loss.
"I thought we were much better rested. The Friday night game, from the get-go we didn't have any gas," Bucklew said. "The score was a little misleading, but we just didn't have the legs to keep up with them. The second day, we played Brookfield a lot better. A little bit of goaltending issues, but we played a much better game. It went right down the wire and we had to keep in mind a little bit that we are trying to save some legs for Monday. Other than one game, overall I think we played well."
In the final game of the tournament, Lakeland played a familiar opponent, Medford, and took out its frustrations of a four-game losing streak.
The T-Birds blasted the Lady Raiders, 8-0, as Wohlleber racked up a goal and three assists in the first period, while recording five points for the game.
Caitlin Hartigan had a goal and an assists, while Kailey Godfrey had a goal and two assists. Caitrin Nimsgern scored on an assist form Jessica Hilgart. Makayla Fultz and Kate Vizanko both had goals as well. Camryn Trapp finished with two assists in the win.
Lakeland now turns its attention to Northland Pines for a game on Monday, where the winner is likely to be crowned Great Northern Conference champion at season's end.
"We were real flat the last game against them. We just have to come out and play our brand of hockey," Bucklew said. "Hopefully we get some good goaltending. If we don't come out flat, I think we'll be OK, but everything is focused towards that."
Lakeland/Tomahawk (9-10, 5-1 GNC) hosted Northland Pines on Monday, after press time, but a full recap will appear in Friday's edition of The Lakeland Times.
Nick Sabato may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.