The Lakers beat the Pirates 2-1 in the Section 8A Quarterfinals.
CROOKSTON - For the fourth time in as many years, the Crookston Pirates and the Detroit Lakes Lakers squared off in the Section 8A Quarterfinals. All three previous matchups went into at least one overtime, and two of them went to Crookston including the 2018 affair. The teams split the 2018-2019 regular season series.
In this low-scoring contest, a successful and unsuccessful penalty shot proved to be the difference, and the No. 5 Lakers (17-6-2, 6-4 Section 8A) outlasted late attacks by the fourth-seeded Pirates (8-17-1, 5-9 Section 8A) for a 2-1 win.
"I just don't think that we were ready to go from the drop of the puck tonight," Pirates Head Coach Josh Hardy said. "[Detroit Lakes] was the better team for a good part of two periods. We kind of put ourselves behind the eight ball. I don't know that we necessarily deserved to win this one. We just weren't good enough for 51 [minutes]."
Alex Bren (Jr. D) and Will Green (Sr. F) did the damage for Detroit Lakes while Brock Heppner (Sr. F) recorded the only Crookston goal.
Pirate goalie, Jack Ricord (Sr. G), stopped 18 shots, and Jack Hines (So. G), who took over the duties from Lakers' regular starter, Blake Itzen (Jr. G), a day before the game, earned the win with 19 saves.
"[Hines] was great tonight," Hardy said. "That could've gone one or two ways. You could've not lived up to expectations, or you could stand on your head. I'm proud of that kid. He got put in a difficult situation. Coming in, only started one game and played fantastic tonight."
Neither team found the back of the net in the first frame, and Detroit Lakes outshot the Pirates 8-5.
The Lakers finally broke the scoreless tie 5:56 into the second period. Jake Anderson (Sr. D) triggered a delay of game penalty by covering up the puck near the Pirates' net, and the officials awarded Detroit Lakes a penalty shot. Bren delivered, and the Lakers took a 1-0 lead.
Twenty-one seconds later, the Pirates found themselves on the other end of a penalty shot chance. Trey Seebold (Sr. F) committed a slash, but Eric Delorme’s (Sr. F) blocker-side penalty shot went wide, and the Lakers preserved their advantage.
"It was the right call," Hardy said on the two penalty shots in under 30 seconds. "That's the rules, and it's funny that it happened in two different situations. I thought [Bren] made a great move and scored a beauty of a goal. Eric came down, looked for the shot and I think he had the spot picked and just missed by a little bit. Hockey's a game of inches, and we were just a couple inches the wrong way there."
Close to the 10-minute mark, Green doubled the lead with assists by Seebold and Nick Lund (Jr. F). Hines stopped all five Pirate shots in the period, and Detroit Lakes sat 17 minutes away from a semifinals appearance.
The Pirates entered the ice with a revamped offense for the winner-take-all period. Their time in the offensive zone increased dramatically which led to a goal by Heppner. After Hines blocked an initial shot, Heppner took the rebound and sent it to the back of the net to cut the deficit in half with 9:13 to go. Delorme received credit for the assist on Heppner's 13th score of the season.
"I thought, in the third period, we were great," Hardy said. "That was the exact type of game that we wanted to play. We just started putting pucks on net. Once we started doing that, we started to buzz, and you could feel the momentum shift. We just ran out of clock. That's hockey. You got to be able to play 51 minutes, and we just weren't able to do that."
Crookston’s best chance to tie the game occurred with under four minutes to play. Jackson Fields’ (Jr. D) interference penalty granted a 5-on-4 opportunity, but the Pirates could not capitalize. Crookston repeatedly crashed the net, but came up empty-handed.
Moments after the penalty ended, a shot grazed Hines’ glove in an attempted save and nearly squeaked into the net but rolled just wide right.
The back-breaker for the Pirates came with 52 seconds to play as Anderson went to the penalty box called for roughing. Crookston pulled Ricord to even out the skaters but to no avail, and the Lakers closed out the playoff win.
For the Detroit Lakes Lakers, the win means 51 more minutes of hockey. For the Crookston Pirates, it is the end of a season and a career for nine seniors.
"This group's been with me since I took over as head coach," Hardy said. "They've been a pleasure to work with. I'm so proud of all nine of them. They've come to the rink every day with a good attitude, and they work hard. Obviously, I'm disappointed for them more than anything. You want it so bad, not necessarily for yourself, but you want it for these kids. It's always tough to see it come to an end."
This is the first section quarterfinals meeting between these two teams in the last four years that did not need an extra frame to decide a winner. Detroit Lakes moves on to the Section 8A Semifinals where they will face East Grand Forks. The puck drops in East Side on Saturday, February 23 at 5 p.m.
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