The Tomah/Sparta boys hockey team retained the Cranberry Cup with a 4-0 victory at Black River Falls Friday.
The Timberwolves scored all four of their goals in the second period. Four different skaters − Boone Mathison, Matthew Holtz, Jagger Hammer and John Christen − accounted for the goals. Christen, Danny Amberg, Adam Thompson and Dawson Cruz dished off assists.
Black River Falls managed to keep the Timberwolves off the scoreboard in the third period despite giving up 22 shots on goal. Tomah/Sparta outshot the Tigers 57-19 for the game.
Tomah/Sparta will take a 17-4-2 record into Thursday’s WIAA Sectional quarterfinal contest against West Salem/Bangor.
The season marks a significant turnaround for the Timberwolves, who finished 5-18-2 last year before merging with a Sparta program that was 6-11-1. Tomah/Sparta coach Todd Kirschbaum said his team entered the season with a significant change in attitude.
“We got a year older and got some people in the locker room, but the biggest difference is the overall, competitive attitude,” Kirschbaum said. “They want to work hard, and they want to get better. We haven’t had that for a while.”
The Timberwolves swept West Salem/Bangor (9-12-0) during the regular season. The 4-1 Tomah/Sparta victory Nov. 29 was the first evidence that the local power structure had shifted. West Salem/Bangor is the defending sectional champion but graduated Jake Gorniak, who now skates for the University of Wisconsin.
West Salem/Bangor started the season 1-5-0 but has played break-even hockey since then. The Panthers are led by Alex Jackson, who has 19 goals and 23 assists.
The Timberwolves were 4-3-1 before going 13 straight games without a loss, a streak that included 12 victories and a tie. However, the Timberwolves wound up with the number-three seed in the sectional thanks, in large part, to a season-opening 5-1 loss at home to Sauk Prairie. Reedsburg/Wisconsin Dells, which nabbed the number-two seed, was 1-0-1 in its two matches against Sauk Prairie. The Timberwolves skated to a 2-2 tie at Reedsburg/Wisconsin Dells Nov. 27.
Defense and goaltending have been a big part of Tomah/Sparta’s surge. Timberwolves’ goaltender Paul Vender has three shutouts since Jan. 17 and a save percentage of .932.
The offense is led by Mathison, who has 39 points (26 goals, 13 assists). Dylen Pierce has 29 points (13 goals, 16 assists), while defensemen Christen and Hammer have also contributed on the offense. Christen and Hammer are one-two on the team in assists with 18 and 17, and both have scored 10 goals.
Faceoff against West Salem is 7 p.m. at Tomah Ice Center.
Tomah Journal editor Steve Rundio can be reached at email@example.com.
TOMAH/SPARTA 4 BLACK RIVER FALLS 0
Black River Falls;0;0;0−0
Second period: T/S—Mathison (Amberg, Christen) :56. T/S—Holtz 7:55. T/S—J. Hammer (Thompson, Cruz) 13:55. T/S—Christen 15:51.
Saves: B—Skelding 53. T—Vender 19, G. Hammer 0.
Penalties: B—2-4. T/S—0-0.