Boys Hockey: Wingers win playoff opener
It’s been a long time since Red Wing lost its first playoff game. Regular season record aside, the Wingers find a way to score, and to win, once the postseason rolls around.
That trend continued Tuesday as Red Wing crushed La Crescent, 8-1, behind a Fritz Belisle hat trick and a four-point game from Dylan Goggin. It was an offensive explosion that the Wingers and head coach Bob Rajanen have been waiting for since the season began in November.
“We played well, it was nice to see,” Rajanen said. ““We’ve been creating opportunities all year, and tonight the kids put them away, and the put them away with authority.”
But how, exactly, does a team that averaged 1.4 goals per game during the regular season find a way to light the lamp more than a half-dozen times in a playoff game?
“I think the seniors know the end is near and they want to play as long as they can, whether it’s at state or in the section semis, they just want to keep playing,” Rajanen said. “The light goes on at different times for different people, and they want to keep it on as long as they can.”
Belisle turned the light on at La Crescent Community Ice Arena 11 minutes, 6 seconds into the game. The light shut off before the next faceoff, but Belisle must have liked the red glow because the Red Wing sophomore lit the lamp once again at 15:35, giving the Wingers a 2-0 lead heading into the first intermission. Dylan Goggin and Sam Hanson had assists on each of Belisle’s goals, a feat they would accomplish again at 14:39 of the second when Belisle found the net for a third time.
That made the score 4-0 as it came after Nick Sammon scored at 10:14 on assists from Tristan Rehder and Mitch Ramstad.
Tyler Rea, Goggin, Rehder and Joe Partington all scored in the third period before the Lancers avoided the shut out with 15:23 to play. Adam Defore made 18 saves for Red Wing, while the Wingers peppered Levi Thesing with 37 shots before Shawn Anderson came in with nine minutes to play. Anderson allowed one goal on four shots.
A large part of the playoff success, Rajanen said, can be attributed to the gantlet the Wingers skate through during the regular season.
“That’s part of it. Our regular season schedule, we like to make it as tough as possible, and as fast as possible, so when we get to sections our opponents aren’t used to that. I’d like to say it’s coaching but it’s not,” Rajanen said laughing. “We’ve always played a tough regular season schedule, and usually pays off in the end.”
One of those opponents, Missota Conference foe New Prague, is next on the docket for the Wingers. Twice the two teams played this year, and twice the Trojans hit the showers with decisive victories.
If the Wingers are to come away victors on Thursday, Rajanen knows what must be done.
“We know they’re a big, fast, physical team and we have to eliminate mistakes and make them play where they don’t want to play, in their own end, so we have to establish a forecheck and get out of or own end,” Rajanen said.
Faceoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday in New Prague, though with a winter storm expected, that could change.