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Boys hockey: Wadena-Deer Creek fends off late push, depth steps up

The Wadena-Deer Creek boys hockey team fought off Lake of the Woods' third-period push to get back in the win column and move to 8-3 on the season.

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The Wadena-Deer Creek boys hockey team celebrates a second-period goal against Lake of the Woods in a 6-5 win on Jan. 6, 2023.
Jared Rubado / Wadena Pioneer Journal

WADENA – Wins, no matter if they're pretty or ugly, all count the same.

For the Wadena-Deer Creek boys hockey team, Friday night's pretty win over Lake of the Woods turned ugly quickly. The Wolverines' 6-5 victory over Lake of the Woods might be seen as a wake-up call for an experienced group that needs to find more consistency in third periods.

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The Wadena-Deer Creek boys hockey team celebrates a first-period goal against Lake of the Woods in a 6-5 win on Jan. 6, 2023.
Jared Rubado / Wadena Pioneer Journal

"It's the discussion we had in the room," head coach Scott Woods said on WDC's struggle to close out games. "The DL game got away from us. The Providence game early in the year was 5-3 in the third and got away from us. I don't think we're running out of gas. Physically, we're still moving. Even when they have the goalie pulled, and we have guys out there who have logged a ton of minutes, we're still playing really well. I think we can still improve on the conditioning, but more than that, it's the mental lapses."

WDC led 5-2 after two periods and took a 6-2 lead on Dalton Moyer's snipe from the point with just over 10 minutes left in regulation. From there, Lake of the Woods strung together three goals in just over three minutes to pull within one of the lead.

Charlie Eck scored twice to cut the lead in half before Wyatt Brown slid a bad-angle shot past WDC goaltender Gunner Olson to pin the Wolverines on the ropes.

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In the final minute, WDC took an offensive-zone penalty to set up the Bears with a 6-on-4 opportunity with the goaltender pulled. Lake of the Woods' lethal top line had several grade-A looks but couldn't find the tying goal.

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Wadena-Deer Creek's Jaeger Pettit and Evan Lunde chase the puck in the Wolverines' 6-5 win over Lake of the Woods on Jan. 6, 2023.
Jared Rubado / Wadena Pioneer Journal

"To their credit, they didn't give up," Woods said of Lake of the Woods. "They have that one line that can really go. That's part of it. When you blow a lead like that, it's not always because you ran out of gas or you checked out. Sometimes it's just momentum. They start to think they have a chance. It's not always about what you're doing, and we've been on the other end of that too."

Lake of the Woods kept the Wolverines' dominant top line quiet but couldn't contain WDC's depth. Sophomores Cooper Ness and Carson Davis scored in the first period.

"That line played fantastic," Woods said. "This is a stepping stone. Sometimes you throw a sophomore right in there, and he goes. Because we have so much senior depth, we ease the younger guys in there like quarterbacks. Let's start with JV minutes and go from there. I told them tonight they're not going to play much JV anymore. They're ready to go. They have good speed and good hockey sense."

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Wadena-Deer Creek's Evan Lunde prepares for the puck to drop during the Wolverines' 6-5 win over Lake of the Woods on Jan. 6, 2023.
Jared Rubado / Wadena Pioneer Journal

Aron Sutherland scored on a breakaway to start the second period before MJ Lunde scored on a bad-angle shot to make it 4-1. After Lake of the Woods' Jordan Kvernen scored his second goal of the game, Peyton Mithun gave the Wolverines a three-goal lead heading into the third period.

The 6-5 score doesn't show how dominant WDC was for most of the night. The Wolverines outshot the bears 44-21 and created a bevy of high-danger chances with all three lines. Yet, their sixth win in their last seven games warranted a lengthy postgame discussion about their approach to the second half of the season.

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Wadena-Deer Creek head coach Scott Woods looks on during the Wolverines' 6-5 win over Lake of the Woods on Jan. 6, 2023.
Jared Rubado / Wadena Pioneer Journal

"We have a super competitive group," Woods said. "It's not so much on each other. The team unity is good. They just get down on themselves and are frustrated with themselves at times. Whether it's a breakdown or a bad call – we lose focus a little bit. Then we get scored on … We haven't done it all the time. We've had games we've closed out. Our big discussion is about if they want to do well in the playoffs. They need to be able to refocus and regroup. The mental piece is just as important as the physical piece."

LOW 1 1 3 – 5

WDC 2 3 1 – 6

SCORING- FIRST PERIOD- WDC- Carson Davis (Cooper Ness) 5:04; WDC- Ness (MJ Lunde) 8:33; LOW- Jordan Kvernn (Randy Wood) 14:09

SECOND PERIOD- WDC- Aron Sutherland (Connor Davis) 2:23; WDC- M. Lunde (unassisted) 3:09; LOW- Kvernen (Wood, Eck) 10:23; WDC- Peyton Mitchun (unassisted) 13:51

THIRD PERIOD- WDC- Dalton Moyer (Kaden Peterson) 6:48; LOW- Eck (Kvernen, Wood) 9:12; LOW- Eck (Wood) 11:24; LOW- Wyatt Brown (Alexander Beckel) 12:30

PENALTIES- WDC- 2 minutes on 1 infraction; LOW- 2 minutes on 1 infraction

GOALTENDING- WDC- Gunner Olson, W, 16 saves, 5 goals allowed; LOW- Jayce Lucek, L, 40 saves, 6 goals allowed

Editor’s note: A feature on WDC’s top line, Cole Woods, Aron Sutherland and Connor Davis, will be online at www.wadenapj.com on Tuesday and in the next edition of the Wadena Pioneer Journal. 

Jared Rubado is the sports editor for the Detroit Lakes Tribune and the Perham Focus. He moved to the area in September of 2021 after covering sports for the Alexandria Echo Press for nearly three years. Jared graduated from the University of Augustana in 2018 with degrees in journalism and sports managment.
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