Coming into a nonconference matchup against No. 2 ranked Superior, Wisconsin Rapids boys hockey coach Pat McDonald knew the Raiders’ chances for a win hinged on stopping the Spartans’ top line.
The 10th-ranked Raiders slowed the Spartans down, but fell to the perennial power 4-2 Saturday at the South Wood County Recreation Center.
Superior’s No. 1 line of Tyler Nystrom, Aaron Miller and Aaron Wakefeld-Zubiate accounted for three of the Spartans’ four goals, with Nystrom notching a hat trick.
“We contained their first line nicely, but we didn’t stop them,” McDonald said. “We slowed things down and played a nice defensive game in our end.”
Superior got the scoring started halfway through the first period when Nystrom beat Rapids keeper Tyler Gilbert to take a 1-0 lead into the first intermission.
The game took a physical turn in the second period. Neither team gained an advantage until the Raiders got the equalizer just over 10 minutes into the period.
Dan Overfelt’s shot was initially stopped by Spartans goalie Paxton Paine, but the puck slipped through his pads and into the back of the net.
Superior answered minutes later to regain the lead heading into the final period.
“Rapids kept our first line really busy,” Superior coach Jason Kalin said. “They gave us a good challenge, and made us answer when they got a goal.”
Superior added another goal late in the period to take a 3-1 advantage, but Rapids wasn’t about to go away.
The Raiders cut the lead to 3-2 with an unassisted goal by Luc Kreuser, and called their timeout with a minute and a half left in regulation for one last charge to force overtime.
Rapids pulled Gilbert in favor of another attacker, but was unable to convert before Nystrom picked up an empty-net goal.
“By the end of the year we are going to be very battle tested and and we will start winning these kinds of games,” McDonald said.
First period: 1. S, Tyler Nystrom (Aaron Miller, Aaron Wakefield-Zubiate), 9:08.
Second period: 2. WR, Dan Overfelt (Luc Kreuser, Logan Zimmerman), 10:50; 3. S. Daniel Mikel (Dane Sislo), 14:53.
Third period: 4. S. Nystrom (Miller, Wakefield Zubiate) 9:28.5; WR. Kreuser 12:55; 6. Nystrom (Miller, Wakefield-Zubiate), 16:04.
Saves: Superior, Paxton Paine 5-11-7-23; Wisconsin Rapids, Tyler Gilbert 10-8-10-28.
Records: Superior 7-1; Wisconsin Rapids 6-2.