Ryan Bittner, who now has four goals this season, also had an assist and was named Let’s Play Hockey Prep Performer of the Night for his effort against St. Paul Johnson

You can get excited now.

Crookston Boys' Hockey got off to a 4-0 start for the first time in over a decade before suffering its first loss of the season to Tartan Saturday. Despite the 6-5 loss to the Titans, the Pirates proved they are for real this season. They skated with a very fast and talented Tartan team, who beat Thief River Falls 6-1 the night before, and answered them nearly goal for goal.

The Pirates defeated St. Paul Johnson 8-1 Friday in Crookston to retain the Lions Cup. Senior defenseman Paul Bittner scored three goals and added an assist and was named Let's Play Hockey Prep Performer of the Night.

At 4-1 on the season, the Pirates will travel east next weekend to face Eveleth-Gilbert Friday and Duluth Marshall Saturday. Marshall is currently 4-1 and ranked No. 5 in Class A.

Crookston and St. Paul Johnson skated to ties in each of the last three meetings between the two longtime rivals, but there was no mistaking who won this year's matchup as the Pirates ran away with the Lions Cup with an 8-1 victory thanks to a hat trick from senior defenseman Ryan Bittner.

Bittner, who now has four goals this season, also had an assist. Senior wing Connor Morgan had a shorthanded goal, while seniors Curtis Regan, Brady Heppner and Blake Brekken also scored along with sophomore Chandler St. Michel. Senior Dylan Klatt and freshman Doug Larson each had three assists.

Pirate freshman goalie Adam Huglen recorded seven saves in the win, while St. Paul Johnson's Samuel Moberg had 24 saves.

The Governors, who have nine freshman on their varsity roster, fall to 0-3 on the season.

Bittner started the scoring at the 6:16 mark of the first period with a wrist shot from the top right circle that trickled its way in the net. Sophomore defenseman Montell Tate and Klatt each assisted.

Morgan got his first goal of the season shorthanded with 5:13 left in the first period when he got loose on a breakaway up the slot and slid in a backhand through the five hole for a 2-0 Crookston lead.

The second period was dominated by Crookston, scoring four goals. Bittner started it off 54 seconds in on an assist from Edevold. Regan got his first goal of the season at the 6:35 mark from Larson. Then with 4:18 left, Larson fed Bittner at the top of the right circle and Bittner found the net with another wrister. Heppner made it 6-0 with his fourth of the season with 1:59 left in the second period on assists from Tate and St. Michel.

The third period was all running time with the six-goal Pirate lead. St. Michel scored his third of the year on a power play with 4:37 left in the third on assists from sophomore defenseman Mikey Hajostek and Bittner.

Brekken made it 8-0 a little less than two minutes later on assists from Klatt and Larson.

St. Paul Johnson's Mitchell Freske spoiled Crookston's shutout with a power play goal with about a minute left.

CHS vs. Tartan
Pirate senior Landon Stainbrook made his first career varsity start in goal and tallied 13 saves. Gabe Splichal recorded 25 saves in net for Tartan.

The Pirates held a 1-0 lead 31 seconds after the drop of the puck with Heppner throwing a puck on the net that trickled in for his fifth goal in five games this season. St. Michel assisted on the goal.

Tartan responded, though, popping three goals in under three minutes during the middle of the first period to take a 3-1 lead. The goals came at the 8:04 mark by Michael Friberg, 8:30 by Kevin Reddy and 10:45 by Brady O'Sullivan.

Crookston responded in the second period and tied it up at 3-3 when Heppner got his second of the game at the 3:46 mark and Morgan tied it at 9:16 with his second of the season on assists from Heppner and Bittner.

Tartan notched its second power play goal of the game, and second of the game for Reddy, with 4:24 left in the second period. The Titans took a 5-3 lead with just eight seconds left on a goal by Ben Longfellow.

The Pirates, facing a two-goal deficit for the second time in the game, responded with a power play goal by Klatt at the 1:06 mark of the third period on assists from Regan and Edevold.

Tartan took back its two-goal lead back with 5:34 left on a power play goal by Mike Winberg.

Klatt responded with his fourth of the season with 2:20 left, a power play goal, assisted by Bittner and Larson.

The Pirates couldn't get the tying goal, though.