Packers travel comeback path

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 8, 2003

Bryan Schaefer's first goal of the season did more than tie the Packers at 2-2 with rival Albert Lea early in the third period. Schaefer's slapshot proved Austin head coach Troy Holtz's point that simply shooting the puck would lead to good things, which it did.

Austin came out of its offensive shell to outshoot arch-enemy Albert Lea 16-11 in the third period, and the Packers overcame a 2-1 deficit in a 4-3 Big Nine Conference boys' hockey victory Tuesday night at Riverside Arena.

Willie Granholm scored the game-winning goal with 19.6 seconds left in regulation on a well-placed centering pass from Brad Wiechmann and the Packers remained the only undefeated team in league play.

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"That felt great, Brad fed it perfect right over the defender's stick and right on the tape," Granholm said of Wiechmann's game-winning assist. "I saw the left side (of the net) open and said I might as well go for it, so I let it rip and it went in.

"It couldn't have felt any better. Albert Lea is always a rival, it doesn't feel any better than to beat Albert Lea."

The Tigers took two games from Austin last year, but the Packers made sure the first time around to take care of business. The flow of the game was not going that way until the third period, when AHS outscored Albert Lea 3-1.

Albert Lea scored two goals during the 14th minute of the second period to take a 2-1 lead.

"We don't like to lose to Albert Lea twice in anything," Wiechmann said. "We knew they're going to play tough, especially because they're playing against us. If we want to be Big Nine champs we have to keep winning the big games."

Schaefer scored unassisted at 2:45 into the third period on a breakaway slapshot that sizzled over Tiger goalie Matt Tubbs' glove. Wiechmann's backhand tally gave Austin a 3-2 lead at the 8:44 mark thanks to a great hustle play along the boards by Dallas Williamson, and the Packers' hero line lit the lamp inside the final 20 seconds for the game-winner.

"Schaefer showed that if you shoot it can happen," Holtz said. "It wasn't a very gritty performance by us until the third period."

Kevin Madson's line of Granholm and Schaefer accounted for Austin's first two goals, and Granholm added the game-winner late in the third. The trio got good marks from their coach after the game was through.

"They scored because they're a hard-working line," Holtz said. "Hard work is going to get you goals.

"The kids did a nice job of coming back."

Austin's new favorite late-game line hit the ice for 23 seconds of power-play but cashed in 21 seconds after the man-advantage had expired. Wiechmann centered with defensemen Cole Hughes and Eric Hansen flanking him, while Tim Kirby and third-line center Andy Swank filled along the blue line.

After time ran out on Austin's 5-on-4, Granholm took Swank's spot on the ice and turned opportunist on a centering pass from Wiechmann.

"We just need to keep working and we can win (the conference)," Granholm said. "It just takes hard work every night. We can do it."

Jack Lynch made 26 saves for his fifth win in as many Big Nine outings. Albert Lea's Tubbs was just as stellar, stopping 27 of 31 shots including Swank's penalty shot at 14:18 of the first period. The Tigers (5-6, 2-3) had four penalties in the first frame and seven in the game, but limited Austin to no power-play goals on five attempts.

"We had to kill way too many penalties, and that killed us," Albert Lea coach Roy Nystrom said. "You're beat, you're tired, you've got your best players out there on the ice trying to kill a penalty. They're bound to take their toll sooner or later."

The Packers (8-2, 5-0) play a pair of four-point games this week. Austin goes to Mankato West on Thursday night and returns home to host Mankato East on Friday. Both games start at 7:30 p.m.


Albert Lea021--3


First Period--1, AUS, Willie Granholm 6 (Kevin Madson, Bryan Schaefer), 6:55. Penalties--Paul Leathers, AUS (slashing) 2:35; Adam Boelter, ALB (tripping) 3:36; Jon Breuer, ALB (hooking) 10:37; Travis McKinney, ALB (holding) 14:18; McKinney, ALB (tripping) 14:52.

Second Period--2, ALB, Breuer (Casey Schumaker, Tony Dugstad), 13:32 (pp). 3, ALB, Cory Ellertson (Boelter), 13:56. Penalties--Cole Hughes, AUS (holding) :48; Leathers, AUS (tripping) 11:34.

Third Period--4, AUS, Schaefer 1, 2:45. 5, AUS, Brad Wiechmann 9 (Dallas Williamson), 8:44. 6, ALB, Boelter (Ellertson, Lucas Flugum), 9:04. 7, AUS, Granholm 7 (Wiechmann, Hughes), 14:40. Penalties--Boelter, ALB (boarding) 3:12; Eric Hansen, AUS (roughing) 11:28; Garrett Schultz, ALB (roughing) 11:28; Schumaker, ALB (hooking) 12:09.

Shots on goal--Albert Lea 6-12-11--29; Austin 8-7-16--31.

Power-play Opportunities--Albert Lea 1 of 3; Austin 0 of 5.

Goalies--Albert Lea, Matt Tubbs (31 shots-27 saves); Austin, Jack Lynch 5-2-0 (29-26).