In their first two games of the Culver’s Cup, the Lakeland boys hockey team played tough, close games and were always within a couple of goals of the lead, but they were unable to get over the hump and take a victory.

That scenario repeated itself in the Thunderbirds’ final game in Madison, the seventh place game of the Culver’s Cup against Monona Grove, which they lost 4-2.

The Silver Eagles took a 2-0 in the first period thanks to a pair of Tanner Smith goals. His first goal came 5:50 into the game on a power play after Lakeland’s Bryce Gilbertson was penalized for checking from behind and misconduct.  Smith’s first score was assisted by Brady Gerothanas and Dawson Dutcher. His second goal came seven minutes later and was assisted by Connor Handel. 

Lakeland’s Max Toijala wasted no time in the second, cutting into Monona Grove’s lead as he scored 1:16 into the period off assists from Cody Olson and Josh Sennett and the T-Birds were within one with the score 2-1.

Michael Zande, though, would take that goal back and score unassisted 12:35 into the second and at the second intermission the Silver Eagles led by two 3-1.

However, in the third period Monona Groves’ Trevor Odgen was called for roughing and on the ensuing power play, Toijala would again chip away at the lead, this time with Teag Wagner assisting for a goal 4:33 into the final frame, and the score was 3-2 Monona Grove.

Toijala had a fantastic tournament, scoring in all three of the Thunderbirds’ games, with five total goals in the Culver’s Cup.

“Max has been having a very good season for us,” Lakeland head coach Jake Suter said. “He has an abundance of talent and is a very humble, respectful young man. He’s continuing to improve all aspects of his game and with his work ethic and commitment the sky is the limit for him.”

Toijala’s goal, though, would be the last strike Lakeland could muster as it were unable to find the net to tie the game in the third.  

Monona Grove, however, would add an exclamation point when Connor Handel scored for the Silver Eagles on an empty netter with a minute and a half to play and the final score was 4-2.

Offensively, both teams brought equal fire power as Lakeland put 35 shots on Monona Grove’s Andrew Gilbertson, while the Silver Eagles fired the puck 34 times at Lakeland’s Collin Guelcher.  

Gilbertson made 32 saves while Guelcher stopped 31.

It was a rough and tumble game as well with both teams spending double digit minutes in the penalty box.

Lakeland committed six infractions for 25 minutes of penalty time, while Monona Grove committed seven infractions and spent 12 minutes in the box. Both teams scored once on a power play.

The loss drops Lakeland to 2-10 overall and they currently stand at 0-5 in the Great Northern Conference. 

The T-Birds next play D.C. Everest in Schofield tonight at 7 p.m.

Jacob Friede may be reached at jacob@ or