Brock Heppner and Ethan Magsam each scored twice in the win.
An early deficit came as a surprise to fans at the Crookston Sports Center when the Pirates faced the Park Rapids Panthers. In a game that included everything including a broken glass delay, the Pirates completed their comeback outscoring the Panthers 5-1 across the second and third period to win 6-3 and climb above the .500 mark at 4-3.
“We just stayed the course tonight,” Head Coach Josh Hardy said. “We were a little frustrated early. We dominated play and they were able to score two goals early. We kept talking about staying positive and they did that and we were able to come out with a pretty big win.”
The Pirates began the second period trailing 2-0 when not much went their way. After two quick goals by the Panthers in the first period, a Pirate player beat the Park Rapids goalie, but was denied by the pipe.
Crookston eventually broke loose just over six minutes into the second period with a goal by junior center Brock Heppner assisted by junior defenseman Jake Anderson and sophomore forward Ben Andringa.
Trailing 2-1 and looking to even the score, a Panthers player checked Anderson shattering one of the glass panels and forcing a delay with nearly seven minutes to play in the period.
After they break, seconds later, Heppner beat the goaltender again to knot the game up at 2-2. Andringa earned his second assist of the game on the goal and leads the team in assists with five.
The break benefitted the Pirates giving them a chance to regroup and strategize.
“Any time you have a long break like that, you’re a little worried,” Hardy said. “Coincidentally in the locker room, Brock came over and said ‘nobody is touching me on the wall, so I can go in the center and go right to the net.’ So I told Ben to push forward and Brock to go underneath and that’s exactly what they did and that’s exactly how Brock scored.”
Heppner’s two goals tied him for the team lead with junior forward Eric Delorme at four.
The celebration was short-lived as the Panthers retaliated with a goal less than 90 seconds later. Despite winning the shots on goal battle 31-14, Crookston still had not yet led in the game.
Due to the broken glass delay, an abbreviated second intermission put the Pirates back on the ice where they then took over the game.
On a power play seven minutes into the final period, Ben Andringa took a pass, worked his way around the goal before sending a shot that was deflected and went past the goalie’s right to tie the game 3-3. Sophomore forward Joey Doda and Heppner received credit for the assist.
Twenty-seven seconds later, senior forward Ethan Magsam involved himself in the game taking the puck and juking the Panthers goalie to give the Pirates their first lead of the game. Nearly three minutes later, Magsam put the puck in the net again with an assist by Delorme for a 5-3 lead and under four minute remaining.
“I sat [Magsam] down for a shift in the third period and after that, he seemed to take it upon himself to put the team on his back,” Hardy said. “He was carrying guys in the offensive zone and out-muscling guys. When he does that, he’s tough to play against.”
The Panthers pulled their goalie with three minute to go opening the door for Drew Dragseth to seal the victory with an empty net goal assisted by senior defenseman Ben Trostad and Delorme.
Before Dragseth scored the Pirates’ sixth goal of the night, he spent time in the penalty box back in the first period for roughing to continue the streak of the Pirates winning a game when Dragseth serves time in the box. A call that according to Hardy, Dragseth was “vehemently against.”
Senior goaltender Cade Salentine helped keep Park Rapids scoreless in the third period with seven saves and 18 total on the night.
Hardy spoke on the team’s ability to handle trailing early and mount a come-from-behind win.
“We were down by two and had to fight the emotions,” Hardy said. “We had to realize that we’re okay and we’re going to find a way to get it done. I was really proud of how we did that tonight. We could’ve gotten frustrated and try to do it all by ourselves, but nobody did that and that says a lot about this team.”
Crookston will attempt to make it three in a row when they face Thief River Falls at home on Thursday, December 21. The game will start at 7:30 p.m. following the conclusion of the girls’ game.