Baraboo/Portage’s four-game winning streak ended abruptly on Thursday.
The Thunderbirds found themselves in a 5-0 deficit after a period of play and went on to suffer a 7-1 non-conference loss to visiting West Salem at Pierce Park Hockey Rink.
“We got beat by a good team,” Baraboo/Portage coach Andy Waldvogel said after the loss. “That kind of summarizes the night. We got beat by a good team. They’re a team that skates hard. We’ve talked about some things that they demonstrated tonight, and I think our guys got a good look at what we mean when we say certain things.”
The Panthers (7-2) took little time to establish themselves. Jack Gorniak came out of the gates flying, scoring unassisted goals 14 seconds into the game and 47 seconds in to give West Salem a 2-0 lead in the opening minute.
Alex Jackson took over from there, scoring at the 7:40 mark and the 11:43 mark to give the Panthers a 4-0 lead.
Gorniak capped off his first-period hat-trick with a goal in the 13th minute, receiving assists from Jack Sandvig and Richard Brown.
West Salem took a 5-0 lead into the second period and added on when Cayden Krause scored just 56 seconds into the period.
Baraboo/Portage (5-5) settled in from there, generating some pressure and playing West Salem to a draw until Gorniak scored his fourth goal of the night 3:18 into the third period.
“There were flashes of things that I think were really positive,” Waldvogel said of the T-Birds. “Our defensemen started stepping and making appropriate plays on the walls as the game went on. And maybe some of that was they were acclimating to the team speed that West Salem brought to the table tonight. As the game went on I thought that we played better.”
The T-Birds capped off the scoring, getting on the board when Gabe Larson scored an unassisted goal with 10:09 remaining.
Baraboo/Portage goalie Dane Hinz made 21 saves in two-plus periods of work, while Giovanni D’Asto got the start and made five saves for the T-Birds. Adam Helgeson tallied 10 saves for the Panthers.
“We generated some quality scoring opportunities,” Waldvogel said. “I think that certain guys played really well tonight, and I think this is going to be one of those learning tools that we use moving forward. There’s a lot of hockey left.”
West Salem won its fourth straight game in the series, as Baraboo/Portage’s last win against the Panthers came in a 4-3 victory on Jan. 18, 2014.
The T-Birds, who outscored opponents 22-5 during their four-game winning streak, lost their first game since a 4-1 home loss to Beaver Dam on Dec. 7. Baraboo/Portage entered the day scoring 5.8 goals per game in its five wins and 1.8 goals per game in its four losses.
“There are a lot of things to look at and take away, but I think ultimately we got beat by a pretty good hockey team tonight,” Waldvogel said. “We’ll be able to take away some things from this game, good and bad, and adjust moving forward.”
The T-Birds will be off until they open the Culver’s Cup by taking on Monona Grove (1-4) at Hartmeyer Ice Arena in Madison on Wednesday. Baraboo/Portage notched a 4-3 win over Monona Grove last season.
“Our guys understand that we’ve got a holiday tournament that we need to be excited about, and we will be,” Waldvogel said. “I think the guys have their sights set on taking care of our first game, then who knows what that will bring.”