Merrill brought a new ally into the battle for Lincoln County hockey supremacy Thursday night as the Merrill-Wausau East Bluejacks edged out Tomahawk 4-3 on the Hatchets’ home ice.
Joe Ladewig got the Bluejacks on the board early with a score at 3:25 of the first period, assisted by Ben Brown. The Hatchets charged back with two goals of their own to carry a 2-1 lead going into the first intermission. Hunter Jones scored for Tomahawk at the 9:45 mark, assisted by Clayton Scholz. Karson Bartz netted the Hatchets’ go-ahead goal at 15:50 with help from Jordan Tomaszewski and Cody Scholz.
The Bluejacks evened it up in the second, with the only goal of the period coming from Brown, assisted by Austin Burgener and Jake Bailey, at 5:32.
Midway through the third period, the Merrill-East squad broke the deadlock with two unanswered goals. The first was netted at 7:28 by Ivan DeBroux with assists from Bailey and Burgener; the second at 10:51 by Ladewig, assisted by DeBroux, to give the Bluejacks a 4-2 lead.
Tomahawk battled back to cut the Bluejacks’ lead to 4-3 with a goal at the 13:19 mark by Max Bembinster off an assist from Tomaszewski. But that was as close as the Hatchets would get, as the Bluejacks’ one-goal advantage held through the final minutes.
The two teams were about even in scoring opportunities, but both goalies were solid in the net. The Bluejacks put up 38 shots on goal, with Hatchet goalie Shawn Dirkx recording 34 saves. The Hatchets took 33 shots at Bluejacks goalie Bryce Broeking, who stopped 30 on the night.
The Bluejacks were more frequent visitors to the penalty box, serving time for eight infractions, while the Hatchets were tagged for four.
“We played a pretty good game, we just can’t seem to find the back of the net,” said THS coach Chris Bembinster. “Our power plays did a nice job of controlling the puck. We could also use a few bounces to go our way. We have targeted things to improve on. So back to work in practice.”
Both teams will be back in action on Tuesday, Jan. 3; the Bluejacks’ will face the Thunderbirds at Lakeland and the Hatchets will hit the road to Shawano.