Last season, West Salem/Bangor reached the WIAA state tournament and Tomah won five games in 23 tries.
That seemed like ancient history Thursday. The Timberwolves unloaded for 40 shots on goal and posted a 4-1 victory over West Salem/Bangor at Tomah Ice Center.
It wasn’t the same West Salem/Bangor that bid farewell to last year’s Wisconsin Mr. Hockey and University of Wisconsin recruit Jake Gorniak, but it was still a transforming result for the new and improved Tomah/Sparta hockey co-op that has more talent and depth than last season.
“Our speed and puck movement helped us control the game,” Tomah/Sparta coach Todd Kirschbaum said. “It was a big step in the right direction with this new program. As a team we are very strong, and it is fun to be around this group with their attitude.”
The Timberwolves asserted themselves from the opening faceoff and outshot West Salem/Bangor 15-3 in the first period. The only goal of the period came when Cahil Arity pushed home a rebound shot from Dawson Cruz at the 9:29 mark.
West Salem tied the match on a power play less than three minutes into the second period, but the Timberwolves quickly resumed control. They scored their second goal on a power play, when John Christen fed Jagger Hammer in the middle of the attacking zone. Hammer ripped a hard slap shot that was deflected into the net by Boone Mathison for a 2-1 lead.
The evening’s highlight-reel goal came six minutes later. Tomah/Sparta’s Christen juked a defender at the blue line, skated toward the goalie’s left, crossed over and tucked a shot just inside the right pipe for a 3-1 lead.
The Timberwolves closed out their scoring less than two minutes later, when Adam Thompson crashed the net and converted a rebound shot off assists from Christen and Logan Rego.
Tomah/Sparta controlled a third period that featured unsuccessful five-on-three power plays for both teams. Dylen Pierce came close to scoring a Tomah/Sparta goal during West Salem’s five-on-three when he forced Panthers’ goaltender Sterling Skrede to cover the puck and wait for a whistle.
Kirschbaum said the Timberwolves’ victory was set up two nights earlier in Reedsburg, where Tomah/Sparta played Reedsburg/Wisconsin Dells to a 2-2 tie.
Christen scored a power play goal to send the match into overtime, when Tomah/Sparta goaltender Paul Vender and his Reedsburg counterpart Cooper Oakes kept the game deadlocked by combining to make 10 saves.
“Reedsburg was a fun game to be a part of,” Kirschbaum said. “Both teams skated well, and there was a lot of up-and-down-the-ice action. Both teams had great chances to win the game in overtime, but the goalies were up to the task.”
The Timberwolves’ improved their record to 2-1-1. They travel to Viroqua for a Dec. 6 contest and return to Tomah Ice Center Tuesday, Dec. 18 to host Onalaska/La Crosse Central/La Crosse Logan in a 7 p.m. faceoff.
Tomah Journal editor Steve Rundio can be reached at email@example.com.
TOMAH 4 WEST SALEM/BANGOR 1
West Salem/Bangor 0 1 0−1
Tomah/Sparta 1 3 0−4
First period: T/S—Arity (Cruz) 9:29.
Second period: W—LeDoux (Jackson, Gribble) 2:41. T/S—Mathison (Christen, J. Hammer) 6:48. T/S—Christen 12:11. T/S—A. Thompson (Christen, Rego).
Saves: W—Skrede 36. T/S- Vender 16.
Penalties: W 6-12. T/S 5-10.
TOMAH/SPARTA 2 REEDSBURG/WISCONSIN DELLS 2
Tomah/Sparta 0 1 1 0−2
Reedsburg/Wis Dells 0 0 2−2
Second period: T/S—Holtz (Cruz, Arity) 1:29.
Third period: R—Jones (Slaught, Pfaff) :05. R—Pfaff (Jones) :34. T/S—Christen (J. Hanmer, Long) 7:29.
Saves: T/S—Vender 36. R—Oakes 32.
Penalties: T/S 3-6. T 5-18.