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Mike Wech

Junior Mike Wech scores a goal during the first period of Thursday's game against Waunakee in Baraboo.

A flurry of goals in the first frame along with solid defensive effort throughout lifted the Baraboo/Portage boys hockey team to a 4-2 Badger North Conference victory on Thursday at Pierce Park.

It was the first victory over Waunakee since January of 2015 for Baraboo/Portage, which made the win that much more exciting for junior Mike Wech, who finished the night with two goals and one assist.

“It’s huge. It’s our second win in six years so it’s really big for us,” Wech said. “We’re 1-1 in conference now; we’re back at it.”

Baraboo/Portage surprised Waunakee with three goals in the first period, two of which coming from Wech. The junior wasted no time scoring his first of the night, as he took a pass from Campbell Koseor after Koseor poked out a loose puck along the left boards. Wech found an opening and backhanded one in at the 14:40 give Baraboo/Portage a crucial 1-0 lead.

The Thunderbirds skated with confidence throughout the rest of the frame. Baraboo/Portage kept the pressure on Waunakee’s half for the next few minutes, and junior Joe Zemanovic used some quick puck handling to race around a couple of defenders and nearly put in a wraparound attempt. The shot bounced off Waunakee goalie Hunter Beck, and Wech kicked out the loose puck to middle ice where it slid into the stick of Koseor, who sniped one in from afar to make it 2-0 at the 10:14 mark.

Baraboo/Portage kept things going a few minutes later, when senior Jack Macdonald kicked a puck in front of him and had a good look at the goal. Macdonald’s shot was saved, but Wech picked up the rebound and hammered it home to make it 3-0. Macdonald and freshman Campbell Koseor were credited with the assists.

Back on the other end of the ice, freshman goalie Dane Hinz used his quickness to stretch out for a couple of saves later in the frame, and was tested after the T-Birds were called for a slashing penalty. Baraboo/Portage kept the Warriors scoreless with solid defensive efforts, including a diving swat from Koseor to send the puck to Waunakee’s end and Baraboo/Portage had the 3-0 cushion entering the first intermission. Head coach Andy Waldvogel said the strong opening period was crucial in gaining confidence and playing clean.

“When you jump out to a lead like that, I think you naturally are going to see your guys play more confident. And they do some more things, they go hard because of the fact they’re energized by the scoreboard. But everything we talked about along the way, is this is a 0-0 game. We’ve got to hit the reset button, we’ve got a lot of time left and this is a good hockey team that we’re playing.”

The Warriors did exactly what Waldvogel and crew were afraid of to start the second period, score early enough to have a chance for a comeback. Waunakee’s Dane Luebke took a pass from Grant Carlson and put the puck past Hinz just 33 seconds into the frame to make it 3-1.

The T-Birds didn’t let the goal get in their heads, as they went back up by three a couple minutes later when Wech controlled the puck behind Waunakee’s net and kicked it out to Macdonald in the slot who buried it home to go up 4-1. The pace of the game slowed down from there, and Baraboo/Portage went on a power play after a too many men on the ice penalty but was unable to capitalize. Waunakee nearly scored later on, but the goal was waved off after the goal became dislodged.

The Warriors started to become frustrated in the final period, as a five-minute major boarding penalty was given while Waunakee committed a kneeing penalty a minute later and Baraboo/Portage had a 5-on-3 advantage for a full two minutes. The T-Birds had some good looks but were unable to find another goal, while Waunakee’s Drew Christianson sniped one from the blue line during a Warrior power play later on to make it 4-2. The Warriors pulled their goalie with about a minute and a half left, but another Waunakee penalty sealed the deal for the Thunderbirds.

“I think we finally strung three team period together,” Waldvogel said. “I’m really proud of all the guys, great team win, and a great conference win.”

Waldvogel was happy to see a full team of five playing for most of the contest, as the T-Birds have been struggling with penalties but only gave up three this time around.

“One of our team goals is to take fewer penalties in periods played. And obviously we haven’t done well with that to this point, but tonight we only took three penalties, and they were hockey penalties. They weren’t mental mistakes, they were hockey mistakes. You’ve got to play 5-5 against good teams, and conference opponents.”

Baraboo/Portage (3-4 overall, 1-1 Badger North) was outshot 36-27 in the contest. The T-Birds will travel to Oshkosh on Saturday.

Follow Chris on Twitter @chris_CNsports

Regional Sports Reporter