Crookston's record improves to 13-10 as they have won five of their last six games outscoring their opponents 29-8 in that span.
The Crookston Pirates continued their hot streak winning two games in as many days against Lake of the Woods and International Falls, both 4-1 finals.
“We needed to take care of business today,” Head Coach Josh Hardy said. “They’ve got a heck of a team over there and they played us tough all night. We needed this one to avoid a loss on our record at the section seeding meeting.”
The Pirates used strong defense to defeat Lake of the Woods killing four out of five power plays. Senior goaltender Cade Salentine stopped 28 shots between the pipes.
Aside from allowing five goals against Thief River Falls, Salentine has not let more than one goal pass through in the past eight games.
“My confidence level has improved and I’m ready to go,” Salentine said. “It’s getting towards the end and it’s time to make my stand and help this team win.”
Senior defenseman Drew Dragseth got the Pirates on the board with a power play goal one minute into the first period. Junior forward Eric Delorme and sophomore Leyton Salentine received credit for the assist.
“Drags made a nice play down low and was patient and able to slide one in there,” Hardy said. “That was big for us early. It’s fun to get one on the power play.”
Delorme scored his team-leading 18th and 19th goals both in the first period to triple the Pirates’ lead with senior forward Ethan Magsam assisting on both.
The Pirates killed three Lake of the Woods’ power plays in the second period and carried their 3-0 lead into the third period.
“Your goalie is your best penalty killer and Cade did a good job of making the saves he needed to,” Hardy said. “Our guys won battles and made smart plays. I thought we did a good job of blocking shots and when you do that, you’re not going to give up too many power play goals.”
Lake of the Woods finally broke through with a power play goal 35 seconds into the final period. Down 3-1, Lake of the Woods received another power play with 4:17 to play, but the Pirates killed it and junior center Brock Heppner scored the dagger goal with 1:30 remaining.
“It was nice to see Brock get rewarded,” Hardy said. “I thought he’s played pretty well the last couple of weeks. That line has struggled to find the back of the net so that was huge. He just stuck with the puck and threw one on net and good things happened.”
The section win helped Crookston in the rankings with the tournament looming.
“This was huge,” Salentine said. “With a loss, we’d be looking to go to Lake of the Woods, but since we won, we’ll likely be at home.”
The following day, the Pirates won in come-from-behind fashion against International Falls with four unanswered goals to win 4-1.
After a scoreless first period, International Falls took the lead 1:41 into the second period.
The lead did not hold long as Magsam scored Crookston’s second power play goal in two days to tie the game with the help of Delorme. The goal served as Magsam’s 10th of the season first since his game-winner against East Grand Forks on January 30.
“He’s been one of our best players night in and night out and it’s nice to see him get one there,” Hardy said. “It was a nice power play goal. Mags was sitting back door and was able to hammer it home.”
Just over two minutes later, senior forward Tim Parr gave the Pirates the lead with a goal that impressed everyone on the Crookston bench including Hardy.
“Timmy came in and shot top left which I thought was surprising,” Hardy said. “I thought maybe go in and deke, but he just picked his corner and had a nice little snipe there.”
Salentine played another solid night at goalie stopping 21 shots and helping to kill two power plays.
In the third period, the Pirates removed all doubt with goals from Heppner and sophomore forward Ben Andringa. Sophomore forward Joey Doda and senior defenseman Ben Trostad assisted on Heppner’s ninth goal of the season and for Andringa’s 11th goal, Heppner and junior defenseman Logan Wardner earned the assist.
“We’re trying to build some momentum going into next week and the week after that,” Hardy said. “This was another big step forward for us tonight.”
With a record of 13-10, Crookston hits the road to play Red Lake Falls for the first of their final two games. The matchup against RLF takes place on Tuesday, February 13 at 7 p.m.