2016 Crookston High School graduate notches empty-net goal to give Iron Rangers, coached by Crookston 1988 grad Todd Kreibich, the win. Puck drops for game two at 7 p.m. Saturday.
A nice crowd came out on a windy, wet Friday evening to catch some junior hockey action between the Thief River Falls Norskies, in their second year, and the Minnesota Iron Rangers, who have been around for six years, at Crookston Sports Center. With their league looking to potentially expand, possibly in Crookston, two exhibition games were scheduled at the CSC, and the Iron Rangers, featuring a coach and two players with Crookston ties, took the first game Friday, 4-2.
Todd Kreibich, a standout goalie for the Crookston Pirates in the late 1980s, is head coach and general manager for the Iron Rangers. On his team is 2016 CHS graduate Harrison Bjorgo, who sealed Friday's contest with an empty net goal in the closing seconds. Also on the Iron Rangers is Noah Montague, grandson of Bill and Carol Montague of Crookston.
The teams play in the Superior International Junior Hockey League, which is affiliated with the Canadian Junior Hockey League. The quality and style of play compares to a good high school hockey game, with somewhat more physical play. Fighting can occur from time to time in junior hockey, and that's no different at this level, where the players are hoping to maybe get noticed by some Division III hockey programs, or the next level of junior play, the North American Hockey League. The closest anything came to getting rough on Friday occurred in the first period during a scrum in front of the Norskies net, and Bjorgo was in the middle of it, getting into a shoving match followed by a stare-down with an Iron Ranger player. It was a penalty-filled game.
While the Norskies, playing as the home team, struck first in the first period, eventually the Iron Rangers started to carry the play and tilted the ice for most of the three periods. Still, they were down 2-1 entering the third before scoring three unanswered goals. The Iron Rangers out-shot the Norskies approximately 47 to 25 in the game.
The puck drops for game two at 7 p.m. in the CSC's Event Arena on Saturday. Beer and things like Mike's Hard Lemonade are available in the arena.