Boys Hockey: Red Wing wins wild one over Albert Lea
It was a game that had played out before, a handful of times. The visitors had an overwhelming advantage in offensive-zone play, while the home team struggled to mount much of an attack.
But things were different this time. In the past, Red Wing would not have been able to pull out a win. In fact, three-straight losses, and four in its past five games, proved the point. On Thursday, however, the Wingers were able to push Albert Lea's attack wide, and converted just enough of their limited offensive chances for a wild 5-4 victory over the Tigers at Prairie Island Arena.
“They had flurries of shots and plays in our zone, and then we'd catch a break and go down and score,” said Red Wing co-head coach Anthony Boser. “Earlier in the year, we wouldn't have completed that game the way we wanted to. I don't know why. I don't know what it was about tonight, if it was not having (No.) 12 in the lineup, that maybe some guys had to step up? Maybe that's what happened. I think they joined together tonight and just played tough hockey.”
Not in the lineup was Tyler DeFore, the team's second-leading scorer and one of just three Wingers with double-digit points. That's a big hole to fill for a team that has just eight goals outside of its top line. But Spencer Kronbeck filled in ably, and got Red Wing on the board 3 minutes, 26 seconds into the game on an assist from Jack Maroushek. The goal came moments after the Wingers killed off an early penalty, and it gave Red Wing a 1-0 lead going into the first intermission.
The second period picked up where the first left off, with Albert Lea commanding the zone. The Wingers were scrambling often, but the defense, and another solid showing from goaltender Zach Harding, kept the Tigers off the board for much of the frame.
“I don't know how much time they had in the zone, but it was all quality time,” said Cam Blue, who would score a short-handed goal at 13:27 to give Red Wing a two-goal lead. “They moved the puck well, and we just held on for dear life. And then when we had a chance, we capitalized.”
Albert Lea would cut its deficit to one when Bergan Lundak scored on the same power play, and it seemed as though the Tigers had finally found some gaps as the goal came with another penalty attached at 14:09.
Yet it was the Wingers who came out firing in the third, with Seth Cushing netting an unassisted goal at 2:31, adding to his team-leading point total and second-period assist. Lundak answered at 8:53, and Samuel Brick tied the game at 10:29.
The madness did not stop there.
The two teams combined for 12 penalty minutes and six goals in the third period. Cushing buried another goal at 11:00 on an assist from Cameron Benway, and Blue played out a perfect power play by sniping the top-right corner from the high slot on a screen from Nick Ramstad. “The best screen we've had all season long,” Boser said. “What a great job.”
Up 5-3, Red Wing would have to hold on.
Ryan Swanson made a diving play on a 2-on-1 with less than two minutes on the clock, thwarting an Albert Lea chance that loomed even larger after Mitchell Evans made it 5-4 at 16:18.
The Wingers would hang on, however. Harding, who made 22 saves, was much better than the final stats showed, a credit to his stopping what he could and his teammates' keeping the Tigers from setting up shop in front of him.
“I give it up to our defensemen, they played great tonight,” Harding said. “They pushed (Albert Lea) wide, and made them shoot shots they didn't want to shoot and they cleared out the rebounds that I kicked out.”
The Big Nine Conference win moved Red Wing to 3-2 in the league, and 5-6 overall. The Wingers will look to get to .500 on Tuesday against Mankato East at PIA.