By Chris Dubiel
The top two teams in the West Division squared off for a pair of games at the International Ice Centre Feb. 4-5. The Chicago Hitmen and the Wisconsin Rampage met in Pleasant Prairie earlier in the season with the Hitmen winning two of three games.
Friday Hitmen 5, Wisconsin 2
On Friday night, the Hitmen got off to a fast start by going up 3-0 after the first period. Mike Lozano opened the scoring cashing in on the powerplay at 5:41. Lozano received a feed in the high slot from Brandon Kirchens and fired a wrister past Wisconsin goaltender Matt Rowe’s blocker. Later in the period, Matt Soukup was able to bury a loose puck during a mad scramble in front of the Wisconsin net. About two minutes later, Michael Delaney set up Nick Turcotte to put the Hitmen up by three at 18:24 of the first.
Jake Matysiak would add a powerplay goal in the second period to put the Hitmen up by four. Matysiak’s goal would be the only marker in a period loaded with penalties. The Hitmen took eight second period penalties, while Wisconsin took five. The intensity level was high as evidenced by the many penalties taken after goalmouth scrums.
About seven minutes into the third period Jonathan Stevanovich’s high stick caught the face of Wisconsin defenseman Anthony Sorensen. Sorensen was cut near the lip and Stevanovich was assessed a double minor after some lobbying from Wisconsin. After the penalty time was assessed, Wisconsin failed to line up for the face off in time, and the puck was dropped while Wisconsin’s players were still near their bench. Amidst the confusion, Matysiak scored a shorthanded breakaway goal to put the Hitmen up 5-0 at 7:22 of the third period.
Wisconsin would finally get on the scoreboard when Justin Kavanagh scored on the powerplay just 23 seconds after Matsyiak’s shorthander. Patrick Sofer would add another powerplay goal during the second span of Stevanovich’s double minor penalty.
After scoring two quick powerplay goals, Wisconsin killed any momentum they had by taking four straight penalties to finish the game. Goaltender Willie Krafcheck earned the victory for the Hitmen stopping 27 of 29 shots.
Saturday Wisconsin 5, Hitmen 3
Saturday night’s contest between the Hitmen and the Rampage started out similarly with the Hitmen building a lead in the first period. Mike Lozano drew first blood once again as he dug the puck out of the right corner and walked to the front of the net, slipping it between Joe Lennox’s pads at 4:10. Lozano’s goal would stand alone until late in the period when Nick Turcotte went top shelf off a pass from Lozano from behind the net at 19:11. Looking like they were in control, the Hitmen would take a 2-0 into the intermission.
The second period was all Rampage as Nick Reuter scored shorthanded just over a minute into the period as sloppy passing on the Hitmen powerplay allowed Wisconsin to force a turnover. Minutes later, Robert Bann scored after the Hitmen found themselves running around in their own end. Mark St. Martin added a powerplay goal at 10:12 when Matt Johnson had trouble locating a rebound. Joseph White, who was solid killing penalties the entire weekend, was rewarded with a wrap-around goal when he beat Johnson to the left post.
In the third period, St. Martin scored his second of the night on another wrap-around goal, which was followed by Matt Soukup’s rebound goal just 15 seconds later. The Hitmen pressed for another goal the rest of the period but the Wisconsin defense was able to help out their goaltender to keep the score 5-3. Lennox made 37 saves en route to the victory. Despite the loss, the Hitmen remain atop the GLJHL at 33-3-0-0.