The Baraboo/Portage boys hockey team saw a little bit of everything at the Culver’s Cup.
The Thunderbirds won handily against Monona Grove on Wednesday night and fought to the end in a one-goal loss to Madison West on Thursday night, setting up a third-place matchup against Minocqua Lakeland on Friday.
Baraboo/Portage capped off the three-day tournament on a bit of a sour note, giving up a power-play goal with less than 3 minutes remaining and suffering a 3-2 loss to Lakeland at Hartmeyer Ice Arena in Madison.
Asked to play the final 3:24 of the game shorthanded, Baraboo/Portage (6-7) couldn’t pull it off. Lakeland’s Caleb Menzia found the back of the net with 2:51 to play to give his team a 3-2 lead and the win.
While the late goal hurt, Baraboo/Portage coach Andy Waldvogel thought his team’s slow start was just as crucial in the loss.
“We didn’t have the same energy and urgency as we had last night,” Waldvogel said, referring to Thursday’s 3-2 semifinal loss to Madison West, which went on to win the tournament with a shutout victory over Madison Memorial on Friday. “Regardless of who you play, if you come out a little flat and have to battle your way through that, it can be an uphill battle.
“I think that our guys have the ability to dictate the pace of play and we weren’t as assertive today as we could have been.”
Baraboo/Portage entered the first intermission with a 1-0 deficit thanks to a goal by Lakeland’s Bret Benson with 28 seconds to play in the first period.
Baraboo/Portage drew even 5:45 into the second period, as Mike Wech assisted Joe Zemanovic for a power-play goal to tie the score at 1. However, Benson answered less than 30 seconds later, scoring at the 6:07 mark to give Lakeland a 2-1 lead.
Lakeland (7-6) killed nearly 5 minutes of Baraboo/Portage power plays late in the second period, but Baraboo/Portage had the answer when the teams were playing 4-on-4 hockey. After a faceoff deep in its own end, Baraboo/Portage took it the other way and Jack Macdonald finished it off with 47.3 seconds remaining, sending the game to the third period tied at 2.
Baraboo/Portage had the bulk of the scoring opportunities in the third period, but couldn’t get anything to go. Lakeland almost struck midway through the period, but Baraboo/Portage sophomore goalie Dane Hinz snuffed out a breakaway attempt with 7:30 to play.
Lakeland, which opened the tournament with a 5-1 win over Oshkosh before suffering a 6-0 loss to Madison Memorial, wrapped up a third-place finish when Menzia scored in the closing minutes.
Baraboo/Portage had a significant advantage in shots on goal, as Hinz made 16 saves and Lakeland goalie Nathan Pitek tallied 41 saves. Zemanovic finished the tournament with a team-high four goals, while Wech and Campbell Koseor each added two goals during the three-day event.
Waldvogel left the Culver’s Cup encouraged by what his team showed against tough competition.
“Looking at the tournament as a whole, we have a lot to be excited about,” he said. “I think that we did some things really well this week.”
It’s just about putting those things together for three full periods every game.
“You want to see a level of consistency, and that’s what we need to build,” Waldvogel said. “The heart of the season is on us now and that’s what we need to see night in and night out.”
Baraboo/Portage will return to Badger North Conference play with a trip to Reedsburg/Wisconsin Dells/Mauston on Thursday. The T-Birds were swept by their conference rivals last season, suffering a 4-1 home loss and a 2-0 road loss.
“With our conference stretch coming up, it’s back to work,” Waldvogel said. “I know they’ll be up for it and excited and I know there’s a lot we can take away from these three games.”
MINOCQUA LAKELAND 3, BARABOO/PORTAGE 2
Baraboo/Portage 0 2 0 — 2
Minocqua Lakeland 1 1 1 — 3
First period: ML — Benson (Redenbaugh), 16:32.
Second period: PB — Zemanovic (Wech), 5:45 (pp). ML — Benson (Toijala), 6:07. PB — Macdonald (Wech), 16:13.
Third period: ML — Menzia, 14:09 (pp).
Saves: BP (Hinz) 16, ML (Pitek) 41.