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Cats gear up for playoffs

Wildcat senior Dylan Dock (17) fights for control of a faceoff at center ice in the first period of the Cats' 4-2 loss to North St. Paul Thursday at Wildcat Centre. The loss was the only setback for the Cats in three games last week. They defeated Simley Tuesday and Rice Lake Saturday by identical 6-1 scores. Bob Burrows photo

The Wildcat boys' hockey team ended the regular season strong last week, defeating Simley, Minn., and Rice Lake by identical 6-1 scores while giving North St. Paul, Minn., all it could handle in a 4-2 loss.

The Cats ended the season with records of 5-5-2 in the Big Rivers Conference, 10-9-2 overall. They open WIAA regional play Thursday night at Amery (16-6-1) with the winner traveling to top-seeded Superior (13-7-1) on Tuesday, Feb. 23.

Last Tuesday, the Cats snapped a five-game losing streak with a 6-1 victory over Simley and former Wildcat coach Jim Joseph.

Karl Andersen and Dylan Dock each had two goals and two assists, Zach Lindquist had a goal and two assists, and Jack Pilney had a goal while Garrett Jensen and Alex Wunrow combined for 21 saves in net.

"It was just nice to win," head coach Nick Jenkins said. "We've been playing a lot of very close games the second half of the year so this felt good."

Maxwell Cooper had a pair of assists in the victory while Tyler Dusek and Trey Peterson had one each.

Thursday night Peterson scored four minutes into the third period to pull the Wildcats to within a goal of North St. Paul, 3-2, but the Polars hung on for a 4-2 victory.

"North St. Paul is a solid team and we gave them a run for two periods," Jenkins said. "This gives us a good idea of where we are heading into the playoffs this week."

North St. Paul jumped out to a 2-0 lead before Andersen cut the gap in half in the final minute of the first period, assisted by Lindquist and Maxwell.

The Polars scored the only goal of the second period to take a 3-1 lead but Peterson pulled the Cats back within one when he scored at the 4:27 mark of the third, assisted by Andersen and Dock. North St. Paul added a goal with just over seven minutes remaining to make the final 4-2.

"The guys played team hockey and showed some guts," Jenkins said. "Guys laying down and blocking shots, taking hits, doing the little things to give yourself a win."

Jensen made 34 saves in net as the Polars outshot the Wildcats 38-25.

Saturday night, Andersen netted a hat trick and dished out an assist and Dock had a goal and three assists in a 6-1 win over Rice Lake.

Peterson added a goal and two assists in the win while Edge had a goal and Lindquist dished out two assists. Maxwell and Zac Balsiger also had assists while Jensen made 23 saves in net.

"We wanted to keep the momentum going," Jenkins said. "Earlier in the week we beat Simley and played well against North St. Paul. This was an opportunity to finish the week and regular season on a high note heading into the playoffs."

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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