The goals came in bunches for the RHS boys' hockey team Tuesday night.
Harlan Wojtusik scored five times, Jake Losch added a couple of tallies and the Hodags blasted the Chequamegon co-op 12-2 in Park Falls.
Rhinelander had a four-goal lead less than 11 minutes into the game and never looked back. The Hodags scored five times during a second period in which they did not allow a shot on goal to the Screaming Eagles and Loggers (SEaLs). Overall, Rhinelander outshot Chequamegon 42-11 for the contest.
The win moved Rhinelander to 2-0 on the season, but a much more difficult task awaits tonight as the team opens the Great Northern Conference season at home against preseason conference favorite Northland Pines, which comes in ranked second in Division 2 in the Wisconsin Prep Hockey coaches poll.
That showdown weighed heavily on the mind of Hodag coach M.J. Laggis as Tuesday's game progressed.
"You start scoring fast and furious and you can't help but get a little bit lax on the bench," he said. "At the end of the second we talked about, 'Listen, this is our last period before we play Pines on Thursday. We know how extremely tough that's going to be. We've got to go out there and have a good period.'"
Rhinelander's top line of Wojtusik, Conor Pequet and Harrison Shinners tallied eight points on the night. Pequet had three assists to go along with Wojtusik's five goals. The Hodags' second line of Jake Losch, Leo Losch and Max Spaulding added another seven points.
"The line of Wojtusik and Conor Pequet and Harri Shinners played really well," Laggis said. "Harlan had five, Conrad (three assists) and Harri was grinding and working hard and making a lot happen, too. That line played really well. Then the line of Max, Jake and Leo, had three goals. Jake had two and Max had one. That line played really well."
Wojtusik got the scoring barrage started off an assist from Pequet 1:38 into the contest. Jake Losch scored at the 4:03 mark and the Hodag second line scored again on its next shift with Spaulding lighting the lamp off assists from the brothers Losch at the 6:51 mark.
Wojtusik scored the next four goals for Rhinelander. His tally at the 10:53 mark made it 4-0 before the SEaLs got one back before the end of the period on a goal by Joseph Niece at 13:01. Wojtusik scored short-handed 20 seconds into the second period, scored at even strength at 2:40 and on the power play at 6:37 to give Rhinelander a 7-1 lead 6:37 into the second.
Joe Schneider and Jake Losch also scored in the period to give Rhinelander a 9-2 lead after two.
The third period featured three Hodags who scored their first varsity goals - JC Adams at the 1:59 mark, Layne Roeser at 12:14 and Jared Arno at 14:16.
"I was really happy for JC Adams to get one, and Jared Arno and Layne Roeser. Those three guys all got their first career goals and that was pretty cool," Laggis said.
It was a short and quiet night for senior Seth Stafford in goal. He saw only three shots, and made two saves in 27-plus minutes of work before giving way to sophomore Caleb Shefveland the rest of the contest. Shefveland stopped seven of the eight pucks to come his way in the third period. The lone exception was a Grant Kief tally at the 13:20 mark.
Rhinelander (2-0-0, 0-0-0-0 Great Northern) has scored 18 goals in its first two games, but Laggis knows things will be much different against an Eagles team that will play its first game of the season tonight.
"We're sloppy in the defensive zone right now and we've got to get much crisper on our breakouts," Laggis said. "We got to get a lot more thrifty in neutral ice. We've got to play a lot tighter game at neutral ice. Then we've got to find ways to keep getting pucks in the back of the net, but that's going to be a lot tougher when you're playing the Pines of the world."
Faceoff is set for 7 p.m. at the Rhinelander Ice Arena.
Jeremy Mayo may be reached at email@example.com.
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