With his long, stringy blonde hair dampened by sweat after donning dozens of pounds of equipment on his body for nearly two hours, McFarland High School boys hockey goalie Gus Hoel let out a sigh of relief after his team pulled out a 3-2 win over DeForest in the 2019-20 season opener Nov. 26 in Waunakee.
Hoel saved 27 shots on goal and survived a McFarland five-minute major penalty and a two-skater advantage for DeForest on the power play.
McFarland fell behind 10 seconds into the game as the Norskies’ Nicholas Garnell slipped a shot past Hoel. The goalie said he blotted the early score from his mind and tried to play solid the rest of the way.
“You can’t dwell on it, or else I’m going to play bad the rest of the game,” Hoel said. “I could’ve played it differently, but you just have to move on.”
Not every player is capable of forgetting such mistakes, but head coach Nick Tuma said Hoel did well to overcome that early obstacle.
“It’s such a mental thing being a goalie, and I think he did a good job forgetting about that first one, and we as a team went out and supported Gus,” Tuma said.
The support began at 2:50 of the first period on the power play as Chase Quelle tallied the team’s first goal of the season off assists from Grant Newcomer and Max Binger.
Later in the period, McFarland had a great chance to take the lead with a five-on-three skater advantage as DeForest was called for overlapping two-minute minors.
But the Spartans couldn’t get anything past Norskies goalie Joseph Brethouwer, who stopped 59-of-62 shots for a save percentage of .951.
Junior Ben Hoang broke the 1-1 tie less than four minutes into the second period as he slammed a rebound off Bryce Flemming’s assist.
It was the first career varsity goal for Hoang, who said Flemming was the one who made it all happen and helped the team build some momentum.
“We started pretty slow, but we came together and just grinded it out,” Hoang said.
The Norskies knotted up the game less than two minutes later when Carson Richter scored with even strength.
McFarland came back to take a 3-2 lead with three minutes left in the second period as Simeon Pommerening poked in a rebound near the left post with Newcomer coming through with the helper.
McFarland maintained the one-goal cushion although the team put itself into a dangerous situation in the third period when two overlapping minor penalties gave the Norskies a two-skater power-play advantage for 97 seconds.
Yet, Hoel and the Spartans’ penalty killing unit turned back several rushes by the Norskies.
McFarland’s Jack Bartzen nearly had a breakaway attempt at the net after stealing the puck in the neutral zone, but he wasn’t able to unleash a shot. Tuma complemented his penalty killers.
“It was a lot of hard work by our guys, trying to protect our house and maintain possession of the puck whenever we can,” Tuma said.
After the penalties expired, McFarland aggressively attacked the net and kept the puck in its offensive zone.
Brethouwer was eventually pulled from the net to allow DeForest an extra attacker, but the Spartans hung on to take the win.
Tuma said there were a lot of smiles in the locker room after the game, and he was happy to see most of his players get ice time in the first game of the season. Yet, the team’s six penalties were way too many.
“We have to stay out of the penalty box. We have to keep our cool and keep our heads and play hockey,” Tuma said.
The Spartans return to the ice Tuesday, Dec. 10, with a Badger South Conference game at Mandt Arena against Stoughton. Faceoff is scheduled for 7:15 p.m.
Brett Quale took over as Stoughton’s new head coach this season after eight years as the team’s assistant.
The Vikings allowed six third-period goals in their Nov. 22 season opener and lost to Sauk Prairie 12-0.