t has been almost a year since Thomas Lueck has played in a hockey game.
But on Thursday night at Bud King Ice Arena, it didn’t take long for him to make his presence felt.
Lueck scored two goals to lead the Winhawks to a 6-2 Big Nine victory over Austin before an estimated crowd of 250.
Lueck and teammate Blake Hauser each missed the first half of the season because of athletic code violations.
“It felt amazing to get back out there,” Lueck said. “It was great to be back with my team.”
The senior forward made his mark at the end of the first period as he found the back of the net on a wrist shot from just outside the high slot to give Winona (4-7-1,
2-3) an early 1-0 lead.
“It was a great way to get rid of the jitters and calm me down,” Lueck said. “After that it was just another game.”
The Winhawks did their best to follow suit as they scored the next three goals. Jake Kline scored his first varsity goal, and teammates Nick Rowe and Frank Wychgram each scored.
All three goals came in a
six-minute span and put WSHS in control.
Winona dominated the first two periods, outshooting Austin 35-15.
“We really got off to a good start tonight, and I really liked our energy,” WSHS coach Fran McDevitt said. “We’re really starting to get our lines set, and I like the energy of our team.”
Austin (2-12, 1-5) scored two goals late in the second period to cut the Winhawks’ lead in half.
But Alex Lubahn lit the lamp midway through the third period, and Lueck scored his second goal of the night late in the period, putting the exclamation point on his return — and the victory.
“It was nice to get (Lueck and Hauser) back tonight; they add an element that we didn’t have before and guys kind of feed off them,” McDevitt said. “And really, for only having practiced together for three days, I thought that whole line played well tonight.”
After starting the season 1-6-1, Winona has won three of its past four games.
“Even in the loss to Century we outplayed them for two periods,” McDevitt said. “We’ve been playing well, but we have a big stretch of games coming up.
“These next two weeks will make or break our season.”