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Wildcat skaters post tie, loss

Wildcat junior Neal Edge (3) flips a backhander past Chippewa Falls' goalie Alex Tillotson to tie the score, 1-1, in the first period of a Big Rivers Conference matchup Thursday night at Wildcat Centre. Chippewa Falls scored in the final minute of regulation to force a 3-3 tie. Bob Burrows photo

Late goals hurt the Wildcat hockey team in its last two games, a 3-3 tie with Chippewa Falls Thursday night and a 3-2 loss to Sun Prairie Saturday.

The Cardinals scored with 52 seconds remaining in regulation to forge a tie Thursday while Sun Prairie scored a shorthanded goal midway through the third period that turned out to be the game-winner Saturday.

The Cats slipped to 8-4-2 overall, 4-2-2 in the Big Rivers Conference. After visiting Hudson Tuesday night, they will host New Richmond on Saturday at 7 p.m. at Wildcat Centre.

Head coach Nick Jenkins said the Cats need to regain their early season energy.

"We have lost some of the intensity that we played with early in the year, and we need to get it back," he said. "When we move our feet and finish our checks we are a good team. We struggle when we don't."

After a scoreless first period Thursday night against Chippewa Falls, the Cardinals took a 1-0 lead just over a minute into the second.

The Wildcats finally got on the board when Neal Edge flipped a backhander past Cardinal goalie Alex Tillotson at the 13:31 mark of the second. Trey Peterson and Mark Bennett assisted.

Chippewa scored a power play goal with 31 seconds left in the period to take a 2-1 lead after two, but the Cats came right back at the start of the third when Zach Lindquist scored an unassisted goal to tie the score, 2-2.

Dylan Dock netted his team-leading 15th goal of the season with just under four minutes remaining, assisted by Ben Novak, to give River Falls a 3-2 lead. But Chippewa knotted things up with 52 seconds in regulation. Neither team managed a shot in overtime.

Wildcat goalie Garrett Jensen made 20 saves as the Cats outshot the Cardinals 31-23.

"Chippewa is a scrappy team and they did a good job of plugging up the neutral zone and preventing us from gaining speed on the attack," Jenkins noted. "There were some bright spots but we need more of a sustained effort."

Jenkins said the Cats weren't ready for Saturday's game at UW-River Falls against Sun Prairie and made too many mental mistakes, including allowing a shorthanded goal that turned out to be the difference in the outcome.

"We are fine offensively, but defensively we need to be sharper," he said. "Good teams work just as hard in the defensive end, and we need to start taking pride in playing good defensive hockey. Being in good position isn't enough, we need to block shots, take and give hits, and just get after it in our own end."

Cooper Maxwell had a goal and an assist in Saturday's loss while Lindquist had the other Wildcat goal. Dock had two assists and Peterson had one while Jensen made 21 saves.

Bob Burrows
Bob Burrows has been sports editor at the River Falls Journal since 1996 and at the Hudson Star-Observer since 2009. Prior to joining the Journal, Burrows served as sports editor with Ledger Publications in Balsam Lake, Wis. A native of Bayonne, N.J. and a U.S. Navy veteran, Burrows attended Marquette University before completing his studies at UW-River Falls in 1992.
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