Lakeland/Tomahawk entered Tuesday night's Great Northern Conference finale at Rhinelander/Antigo with little on the line.
The Thunderbirds clinched the GNC championship five days earlier with a 3-0 win over the same Northern Edge team.
The last time out, Kailey Godfrey scored a pair of timely goals to create some separation in a tight game. This game was just as tight. It was tied after a scoreless first period and tied after the two teams trade goals in the second. They would once again trade goals in the third, making it 2-2 with less than two minutes to play.
It was once again Godfrey that turned the Northern Edge's upset dreams into a nightmare. She was able to put away the game-winner with 1:32 to play in the game as Lakeland/Tomahawk left with a 3-2 win.
Perhaps the game was a bit tighter than it needed to be because the conference had been decided, playoff seeding was finalized and the two teams played less than a week prior.
"I think there was definitely some of that. As much as we tried to stay away from it, inevitably there's going to be a little of that," Lakeland/Tomahawk head coach Steve Bucklew said. "We ran four lines and other than playing a little flat in the first period, I thought they played pretty well. We had a lot of opportunities. We probably missed three open nets, we had one goal called back. It was a game I thought we had to get through with a win. We did that and now we can concentrate on the playoff game. We've got two more games to play, but everything is going to be focused toward next Friday."
After the Edge took the lead 3:43 into the second period, Lakeland was able to tie it on a goal by Lauren Godfrey with just 17 seconds left before intermission. Then right, off the bat, the T-Birds took the lead on a goal by Isabelle Boyer just 16 seconds in.
Rhinelander/Antigo was able to steer clear of momentum stealing the game away, despite being outshot 16-4 in the final period, Madi Losch was able to knot the game at three apiece with less than six minutes to play, before Kailey Godfrey put it on ice.
While she only had to make 13 saves in the win, freshman goaltender Anna Maulson played well and he's confident she'll be up to the task when playoffs roll around.
"Anna is a pretty tough customer. She's not one to get shaken easily," Bucklew said. "She's definitely got some things she needs to clean up, but it's more of a form and fundamental thing than a mental thing. Mentally, she's a pretty tough kid."
Lakeland still has two more regular season games to play, both on the road. On Thursday, the T-Birds traveled to Hayward in a rematch of a game the Hurricanes won in overtime last month. Tomorrow, Lakeland plays at Black River Falls in the regular season finale.
The plan is to start Mariah Lear against Hayward and Maulson against Black River Falls, but both are expected to see time in each game.
Otherwise, the T-Birds are going to use their final two games as a tune-up for a fifth meeting of the year with Northland Pines in the first round of the WIAA Playoffs.
"We're going to definitely do a little work with the defense in the offensive zone, getting their shots off quicker, more accurate, more side-to-side puck movement to get the goalies moving, and as much as we've worked on it all year, we're going to work on shooting and actually hitting the net," Bucklew said.
Lauren Godfrey finished the game with a goal and two assists, while Isabelle Boyer had a goal and an assist, and Asucena Boyer and Caitlin Hartigan had two assists apiece.
Lakeland (12-10, 8-1 GNC) played at Hayward after press time, but a full report, along with tomorrow's game at Black River Falls will appear in Tuesday's edition of The Lakeland Times.
Nick Sabato may be reached at email@example.com or via Twitter @SabatoNick.