The speed and strength of the Pirates were on full display Tuesday in a 9-0 thrashing of Red Lake Falls. Seven different Pirates scored, including a hat trick with two shorthanded goals by senior Brady Heppner.
Pirate senior Ryan Edevold recorded a goal and four assists, while senior Ryan Bittner had a goal and three assists. Junior Justin Cameron tallied three assists.
"It felt great to get back to scoring goals and the team played really good," said Pirate assistant coach Jake Abrams. Head coach Jon Bittner was unable to attend the game due to illness. "Everything clicked tonight. We moved the puck well and everyone got a chance to play."
Crookston dominated the second period. Leading 2-0 after the first, the Pirates did not allow a shot in the middle frame, while scoring four goals, three of them on the power play.
Pirate junior goalie Parker Epema earned the shutout victory with eight saves. Red Lake Falls goalie Wyatt Casavan, a junior, recorded 41 saves.
"It's Parker's job going into the playoffs," Abrams said of the Pirate goalie. "He has been playing pretty solid recently. He will get the start in the first playoff game. Any time a goalie gets the shut out it's a confidence boost. He made saves when he had to and that's what we need him to do."
Junior Nate Erickson notched his first career varsity goal at the 6:15 mark of the first period when he buried a pass in front of the net from Bittner.
With Red Lake Falls on its second power play of the period, Heppner notched his first goal of the night from the right circle with a wrister past Casavan. Edevold and Cameron each assisted on the play.
Bittner made it 3-0 with his 16th goal of the season at the 1:59 mark of the second period on a power play with a quick shot from the top of the circle.
Three and a half minutes later and on another power play, Bittner took another shot from the top of the circle that was redirected in by sophomore Montell Tate in front of the net. It was Tate's first career varsity goal.
Nearly three minutes later, senior Curtis Regan fired a shot on Casavan and the rebound went to senior Kyle Proulx, who quickly buried the puck from the slot.
At the 8:29 mark of the second, senior Dylan Klatt scored 11 seconds into another power play. Freshman Doug Larson found senior Dylan Klatt with a pass from across the slot that Klatt punched in from the side of the net for his ninth of the season to make it 6-0.
Heppner got his second of the night at the 4:45 mark of the third period from senior Connor Morgan and Cameron. At the 9:02 mark Edevold scored his 18th goal of the season and about two minutes later Heppner finished the scoring with his 25th of the season on the man short.
Now at 13-12 on the season and 7-6 against Section 8A opponents, the Pirates look to have locked up the No. 4 seed for the upcoming section playoffs. The quarterfinals are set for Feb. 21 at the high seed.
"Coming off two wins and going into playoffs is a good start," coach Abrams said. "We need to put three games together to make it down to the show. These last two games help.
"We'll keep practice up tempo," Abrams continued. "We'll have nine days off to work on a little bit of everything. We need to make sure we stay in game shape. We have a couple of seniors that have been there for four years. We'll rely on our captains for their leadership, but you don't need to have a C or A on your jersey to show leadership. It's definitely a boost to have 14 seniors on your roster."