Boys hockey: Titans parade past Polars

Axtman records six points

Tartan 7 - North 4

A good second-period comeback by North High went for naught Thursday, Dec. 12, as the Tartan boys hockey team recorded a 7-4 triumph.

The loss dropped the Polars to 0-1 in the Classic Suburban Conference.

Senior starting forward Rusty Axtman led the Titans with a three-goal hat trick and added three assists for a six-point game.

As the teams squared off for the drop of the puck at Tartan Arena, each had just one loss to this point in the season. Tartan entered the game with a 5-1 mark while North came with a 4-1 record in non-conference action.

“It was tough without the brothers,” stated veteran North coach Jerry Diebel. He referred to the fact that leading point-producers Tyler and Justin Oliver were at a soccer competition in Pennsylvania.

“But (Jack) Murnane had a good night for us (with a goal and an assist). We are down a little at defense, and they took advantage of us back there.

“We just have to get better. We will have to keep improving with each game we play,” Diebel said.

From the Tartan view, co-head coach Steve Romanchuk also talked about his defensemen. In the game there were several breakaways by both teams.

“We are very young at defense. Teams work at getting behind a young defense, and you saw both teams work at that tonight. But this was a new hurdle for us tonight, and it was a good game for us.

“It was especially good for Axtman. He is coming into his own for us and had just a great game. We’ll take this (game) and build on it.”

Torrid battle between rivals

The opening goal came at 6:33 in the first period when passes from Axtman and Zach Ledman hit the stick of Brady O’Sullivan. The senior winger fired from a sharp angle and saw the puck sneak through the short side of the North net.

The 1-0 tally held up through the first period.

Early in the second stanza, passes from Ledman and Eric Geskermann found Axtman in the circle to the right of the North net. A flip shot up in the air sailed toward the net. North net minder Steve Orme took a swipe at the puck, but it went over his right shoulder and just slipped under the cross bar for the 2-0 Tartan goal at 55 seconds into the period.

It became 3-0 when O’Sullivan and Ledman worked the puck to Axtman who fired a bullet into the North net at 7:02.

The Polars were down 3-0, but that didn’t lessen their determination. Just 42 seconds later, some good pressure paid off.

A feed from Adam Hildebrandt found the stick of Murnane who sent a sizzler inside the left pipe for a North tally at 7:45.

Just under three minutes later, the score became interesting when Jimmy Salava relayed a pass behind the Tartan net, where Murnane threw it to the left doorstep to Hildebrandt, who scored at 10:37.

The Polars could now smell their comeback gaining momentum and a feed from Tony Bollman put Sam Blees behind the Tartan defense. He cruised up the slot and scored at 15:29.

When it looked like the teams would enter period three deadlocked, the Titans rebounded.

Axtman sent the puck to Zach Moore, who passed to Ledman. He steered it inside the left post at 16:28 to give Tartan back the lead at 4-3.

The Titans came out flying in period three. A North penalty for too many men on the ice gave the Titans an opportunity they didn’t waste. 

Axtman to Geskermann saw the puck move to the right post where O’Sullivan tipped it home inside the right post at 3:14. It would turn out to be the game-winner.

A Tartan penalty—there were only a total of three—saw the Titans garner the back-breaker goal.

Down a skater, Axman picked off a pass and sailed up ice alone. His head deke moved the goal minder off stride, and he scored a shorthanded goal at 7:30.

Next Titans Moore and Derek Sievers teamed up to slide the puck to Will Acker. The senior center went up ice on yet another Tartan breakaway. His sizzler went into the net for a 7-3 Tartan lead at 8:59.

However, the Polars kept hammering away at the Tartan doorstep. A shot by Nathan Rubbelke was stopped. When the loose puck was not covered or cleared, Salava banged it inside the right post at 9:59 for the final score in the torrid battle between the two rivals.

Up next

Tartan will travel to St. Michael-Albertville for a 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 19, non-conference game. The team returns to Tartan Arena to face St. Thomas Academy Saturday, Dec. 21, at 7:30 p.m.

North will take to the road to meet Simley at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 19, at Veterans Memorial Arena, and return to Polar Arena to face the Hill-Murray Pioneers at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 21.

Wally Wakefield can be reached at


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