On a foggy Monday evening, the Three Lakes Bluejays came to Mike Webster Stadium and staged a defensive clinic to earn a 2-2 tie with Rhinelander.
The Hodags struggled to put together any cohesive scoring opportunities against a stingy three lakes midfield. Three Lakes scored first at the twentieth minute mark of the first half off a long pass from senior Canto Ginet to senior Parker Trollan. That score put the Hodags into a defensive shell where they struggled to advance the ball past a tightly packed Three Lakes midfield. The Bluejays continued to send long balls into the Hodags end hoping that their speedy attackers could beat the Hodag defenders.
With six minutes left in the first half, freshman Braden Mork intercepted a pass and was able to dribble past a Bluejays defender. He launched a shot to the lower right corner of the net to tie the score at 1-1. That goal appeared to wake up a sluggish Rhinelander attack. The last five minutes of the first half ,the Hodags were able to work the ball through the Three Lakes midfield and take some shots. The Bluejays goalkeeper was able to make all the necessary saves to keep the score tied at the end of the first half.
In the second half Three Lakes went ahead 2-1 on a goal by sophomore Cole Melton. The scoring opportunity came off a scramble in front of keeper Gavin Osterman. The loose ball was scooped up by Melton and fired into the upper right-hand corner of the net. Again Rhinelander was down a goal trying to recapture the momentum. The next sixteen minutes of the second half were played to a draw.
Neither team could put together a cohesive scoring drive. With only four minutes left in the match, freshman Charlie Heck caught a long pass and launched a shot from forty yards out that appeared to go high and wide, but found the upper left corner of the net to tie the score at 2-2. Time ran out in the half and Rhinelander had to settle for a non-conference tie.
"I'm disappointed in our play tonight, we played as individuals instead of a team", said Rhinelander coach Nathan Bates. "We really took a step backwards compared to the level of play against Northland Pines last Thursday. Communication continues to be an issue that we need to improve. I'm hoping that tonight's game is a hiccup and we will use practice this week to work on communication and coming together as a team", said Coach Bates.
The Hodags will travel to Lakeland on Thursday (10/3) to play the Thunderbirds at 7 PM. Rhinelander defeated Lakeland 2-1 in their previous meeting.