Pioneers continue to roll over boys hockey opponents

Titans post first loss, Polars eke out a win

Hill-Murray continues to build on success, while Tartan ran away from one team but fell to another.

Tartan 5 — Park 2 

The Tartan Titans’ latest early-season victory—5-2—came at the expense of the Park Wolfpack in a game Dec. 3 at Cottage Grove. 

Tartan garnered three first-period tallies and never looked back. Nor did they tire out one or two “stars.” Their biggest weapon seems to be their versatility; off the five goals scored, each was from a different player. 

The first period was more than halfway gone when Brady O’Sullivan slid the puck across to Eric Geskermann, who one-timed the biscuit between the Park pipes at the 9-minute mark of the period. 

Not quite three minutes later the Titans struck again. This time Joe Ossell and Zach Ledman combined to send the disc over to O’Sullivan who sent a laser blast between the posts at 11:57. 

Before the first canto played out Will Acker sent a feed to the blade of Dan Betz and he in turn found the back twines for a 3-0 first period Tartan leeway at 13:15. 

The Wolfpack responded early in the second period. Nick Lucas took a pass from Eric Stoffel and converted it into a number-changing tally 2:32 into the second period of play. His second point relayed the puck to Rusty Axtman who found pay dirt at 9:10 to end the second stanza with Tartan on top 4-1. 

The Wolfpack narrowed the gap once more with the first goal of the third period. Nick Lucas feathered a feed to the blade of Matt Goecke, who found a niche in the Titans’ armor just 50 seconds into the third canto. 

Late in the third, Tartan took a penalty. In an attempt to capitalize on the advantage, the Wolfpack pulled their goalie to put six attackers on the ice against Tartan’s four. 

The ploy, however, backfired when Axtman picked up his second point of the game with an up-ice feed to Alex Grubbish; Grubbish outdistanced pursuers and sent a shot wheeling into an empty net to put the final 5-2 tally on the board at the 16:29 mark. 

Hill-Murray 6 — Lakeview South 0 

The Pioneers took their second consecutive boys’ hockey adventure to the Metro south suburbs Dec. 3 when they traveled to the Hasse Arena in Lakeville to meet the Lakeville South Cougars. 

The persistent Hill-Murray attack—they outshot Lakeville 39-21—never allowed the Cougars to get out of their crouch. The result was a 6-0 blanking of their hosts. 

The first goal came just 10 ticks into the fray. 

A feed by Jacob Olson, from the opening face off, was taken by Joey Anderson who converted at the 10-second mark into the contest. 

The next Hill-Murray tally came near 14 minutes later when Tyler Funk slid the puck to Zach Mills. The junior winger blasted a bullet to the back mesh at 14:18. 

With the score 2-0 Hill-Murray, the second 17 minutes got underway. The clock took just 42 seconds before it was stopped again, when Mitch Slattery assisted on a shot taken from the blue line by Casey Staum, a sophomore defender, that pushed the score to 3-0.

The count stood until yet another early-period goal in the third. This time, with just 2 minutes elapsed, Tyler Nowak potted an unassisted effort, running the score to 4-0. 

Next, it was Funk and Anderson who teamed with Mills for his second score of the game, when he found a hole inside the Lakeville North posts for the 5-0 tally at 6:32 of the game. 

The final tally in the 6-0 whitewash came just 51 seconds before the final horn. Logan Sharp threw the puck over to Funk, who relayed it on to Anderson. 

The ninth-grade sharpshooter hit the target with a bullet at 15:09 of the period to make the 6-0 Hill-Murray trip back to Maplewood another pleasant one. 

Thief River Falls 3 — Tartan 2 

The Thief River Falls Prowlers arrived late to Tartan during the Dec. 6 ice storm but left in a glow of success after handing the Titans their first loss in the early going of the 2013-14 boys’ hockey season. 

In a well-played, nearly penalty-free contest, the Prowlers waltzed away with a 3-2 triumph and brought their season mark level at 2-2. 

The Titans drew first blood in the first period when a good rush and some pin point passing saw Eric Geskermann feed the disc to Brady O’Sullivan who slipped the puck into the 5-hole at 13:18. 

The Prowlers came right back and knotted the game with a goal at 14:02. 

The opening period ended in a 1-1 deadlock but early in the second session, a shot from the top of the circle to the right of the Tartan goal found its way to the doorstep. There it was tipped inside the right pipe to give the Prowlers a 2-1 margin just 1:25 into the period. The Thief River Falls tally held up until period three. 

Just over halfway through the third stanza, Ethan Johnson of the Prowlers broke alone across the blue line. The sophomore cruised down the slot and deked Splichal to the left post before finding an opening inside the right pipe. 

It was Johnson’s second of the game and turned out to be the game-winner. 

Three and a half minutes later, with the Titans buzzing in the Prowlers’ end, their effort paid off when feeds from Rusty Axtman and O’Sullivan made their way to Zach Ledman. The veteran winger found a niche at 12:56 to pull Tartan within one. 

Just inside the final minute, the Titans pulled their goalie in favor of a sixth attacker. They created several chances, but were unable to capitalize on them and suffered their first loss in four games.

“We work hard at playing our positions and on being disciplined,” Thief River Falls head coach Tim Bergland said. “I thought both goalies played well tonight. We try to take advantage of any breakdowns the other team may have. We like to think we have the upper hand when it comes to breaks so as don’t give up any of our own. It was a good game for us against a team that has a lot of things going for it.”

“It was a good game,” Tartan co-head coach Steve Romanchuk. “We had a few lapses, especially I didn’t think we played very well in the second period. Our goalie (Gabe Splichal) had a good game. He made some great saves. Other than the second period we had a solid game.”

Hill-Murray 7 —  Benilde-St. Margaret’s 3 

Following a couple of road games, the Pioneers returned to their home ice at Aldrich Arena to take on the Benilde-St. Margarets’ s Red Knights Dec. 7. 

Hill-Murray found their home opener to their liking as they continued their winning ways with a 7-3 defeat of the Red Knights. 

The game was a close, hard-fought fray throughout, but it was the Pioneers who were able to capitalize the most. Shots on goal were near equal at 34 for the visitors to 33 for the Pioneers. 

Feeds from Jacob Olson and Mitch Slattery found the stick of Dusty Krueger and he in turn found the back of the Red Knight net just 5:45 into the game. 

The tally stood up until the Knights found the equalizer just short of midway through the second canto. 

Less than a minute later Josh French teamed with Slattery to send a pass to Olson, who put the Pioneers back on top, 2-1, at 7:50 of the second period of action. 

Then, with just 41 seconds remaining in the second, Mills, after assists from the sticks of Casey Staum and Olson, found pay dirt to give Hill-Murray a 3-1 leeway heading into the third period. 

As the third period got underway, the Pioneers went on a tear. Just 1:22 into the final period, Davis Zarembinski sent the disc to Slattery and he relayed it Joey Anderson. The ninth-grade whiz rifled a shot that caught the back mesh for the 4-1 game-winner. 

Under four minutes later Hill-Murray struck again. This time it was Zarembinski who combined with Slattery for a goal at 5:04. 

A half-minute later, Mills moved the Pioneers’ advantage to 6-1 with an unassisted effort at 5:37. 

The Red Knights fought back with a couple of unanswered goals at 7:02 and 14:39, but it would prove to be too little too late as the final tally came just 11 seconds prior to the final horn when Olson fed the biscuit to Zarembinski, who ended the night with a blistering shot at 16:49. 

In contests thus far Hill-Murray has met three formidable opponents and has out scored them 18-6. 

In the game against Benilde-St. Margaret’s, the leader in the Pioneers’ point parade was Slattery with one goal and four assists, joined by Olson (1-3); Zarembinski (1-2) and Mills (2-0).

North 5 — Spring Lake Park 4 

The Spring Lake Park Panthers ventured into Polarville Dec. 7 to do battle with the North Polars in a non-conference boys’ hockey confrontation. 

It was a game that was almost settled to no one’s advantage, but in the end the Polars emerged on top of a 5-4 score. 

How close were the combatants? Consider the shots-on-goal, where North came out ahead by a slim margin of 34-33. 

It took a rare, power play, overtime goal 3:16 into the extra session to settle the differences between the adversaries. 

The Panthers built a 3-1 advantage heading into the final 17 minutes of play and then saw the Polars make a concerted effort to get back into the fray. 

The Panthers scored the only goal at 14:19 of the first period. North, on an unassisted effort by Jack Murnane, knotted the score at 56-seconds into the second stanza. 

But with a North player in the penalty box, Spring Lake Park jumped on the opportunity with a power play tally at 7:19. They moved their leeway to 3-1 with a goal that came at 13:47 of the second period.

North came out determined in the third canto and the attack saw Nathan Rubbelke send the disc to Jimmy Salava. He feathered a feed to Samuel Blees and the junior right-winger knocked a laser into the back mesh at 2:28.

Five minutes later, the Panthers reclaimed the 2-goal lead when a shot found the rear areas of the North net at 7:58, 

North continued to press and their efforts paid off when some nifty team work saw Luke Johnson fire over to Tyler Steiner. Steiner sent the puck to Marshall Moore who one-timed a sizzler inside the pipes at 8:35. 

Just one goal behind at 3-4 the Polars now could smell a goal and Murnane sent a feed across to Salava and he knotted the count with a shot high under the crossbar at 12:34. 

Try as they might neither foe could change to scoreboard before the the horn blew to end regulation. 

A rare penalty in overtime gave the Polars the opportunity to cash in. Adam Hildebrandt sent an up-ice pass that Luke Kubiatowicz relayed over to Murnane. 

The veteran senior winger didn’t miss with a blast that saw the back twine bulge and the game came to a sudden end at 3:16 into the overtime session and North skated away with the unlikely 5-4 win. 

Murnane tallied the first and last goal of the game and in between he added an assist for a 3-point contest. 

Wally Wakefield can be reached at

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