Rebels building skills, teamwork as season progresses
The Moose Lake Area boys’ hockey team is headed up the North Shore for its annual holiday tournament and coach Lee Costley is optimistic for a good weekend.
The Rebels (1-6-0) are in the middle of a building project in which Costley sees dividends … and he’s not talking about the new K-12 school.
“We’re giving up a lot of goals and that can’t be denied, but we’re getting better at playing systems and these kids are learning,” Costley said. “We’ve come a long way since we started and we’re going to go a lot further before we’re done.”
Defensive zone play has been an issue. The Rebels have allowed six or more goals in each of their seven games to date but Costley notes that the players’ adherence to systems has helped.
“We ran around a lot in our own end in the first few games,” he said. “And, to be fair, we’ve had eight goals against us, a lot more than we’d like. But the kids do see the wisdom in playing systems now and they’re getting it.”
The team has a win under its belts too, and that helps quite a bit. A 7-6 win over Legacy Christian Dec. 16 came at just the right time.
“We were ahead in the third period in the game and lost the lead, and came back to win,” Costley said. “But the thing of it was we were ahead in the third period of the two games before that and we couldn’t hold either lead.”
The Rebels led in the third period of a 6-3 loss to Mora/Milaca Dec. 8 and again in an 8-5 loss to WSFLG in Grantsburg five nights later.
“We got ahead, but we just hadn’t figured out how to close a game,” Costley said. “That’s why the Legacy Christian win was so important.”
Leading 4-2 after two periods thanks to a pair of goals from Mike Knezevich and singles by Anakin Oswald and Wyatt Lampel, the Rebels had to survive a seven-goal third period to claim their first win. Legacy scored three goals in the first 4:38 of the period to erase the Rebel lead, only to see Devon Bonkowski re-tie the game at 5-5 at 6:44.
Forty-three seconds later, the Rebels trailed again through Legacy Christian’s Jarvey Hill, but Vern Anderson III scored 41 seconds after Hill to tie the game again at 6-6. That set up game-winning heroics from Oswald, who potted the game-winner with 2:10 left on the clock.
“It was great to rally, and it was great to come from behind to get that win,” Costley said. “We needed a win and it gave the kids some confidence.”
After an 8-0 home loss to Pine City Dec. 20, the Rebels hit the road for a Wednesday tournament matchup with Rice Lake in the first round of the North Shore tournament, as this edition of the Pine Journal goes to press.
“We’d be thrilled if we could go up there and win twice, that would be a great weekend for us,” Costley said.
Rice Lake (3-5-0) has a 10-0 win over WSFLG, which beat the Rebels 8-5.
“We expect them to give us everything we can handle,” Costley said. “We look for a good game.”
Costley also said the specialty teams will be a factor.
“We have done a good job staying out of the penalty box, and when we do take penalties we’ve done a good job shorthanded (the Rebels kill penalties at an 88-percent clip). But when we get on the power play, we’ve had guys try to do things themselves so we’ve given up five shorthanded goals, which is five too many.”
“But guys are now coming up to the coaches on the bench and asking what they should be doing in situations and then doing it, so that’s a good sign,” Costley added. “Guys are doing instead of wondering, and that will help us down the road.”
The Rebels boys hockey team plays at home next at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 3 against Braham at Riverside Arena in Moose Lake.