EAST GRAND FORKS — There are three ways to look at what happened to the Crookston girls’ hockey team Thursday night.
One: the Pirates were outshot 42-12 and outscored, 8-0, by East Grand Forks in a deflating season opener.
Two: Crookston got some needed lessons, finding out just how far it has to go to get where it wants to be.
And three, in the words of head coach Tim Moe: “The sun will come up tomorrow.”
The Green Wave scored twice in the first period, three times in the second and added three more in the third to run away with the victory. Three of their goals came while shorthanded and two more on the power play.
The scoreline reads total dominance by one team, and, well, that wasn’t not the case. But Moe thought the margin still belied what was a competitive, energetic effort, even as it came against a much better group.
“I think we competed better than we have in years (against East Grand Forks),” Moe said. “Eight-nothing on the scoreboard is not what the reality of that game was, and as we get more physically fit, as we get more mentally fit and as we gain experience I think we're still gonna be a pretty good hockey team this year.”
What ballooned the score, in the end, was East Grand Forks’ massive advantages in physicality and talent. The Green Wave lost many key contributors from last season, and were coming off a 9-2 loss to Warroad on Tuesday. But they had plenty of talent, albeit less experienced, on display against Crookston, and it made all the difference.
Moe thought his team actually moved the puck effectively in the offensive zone, but their lack of strength made true chances in the gritty areas hard to come by.
“In the third period they were just outmuscling us,” Moe said. “I think we're talented enough to get in the right positions, but whether or not we're strong enough yet to finish those plays is a big thing. That's something the kids have to buy into and as a coaching staff we need to encourage.”
On the open ice, the Pirates mostly kept pace with East Grand Forks skaters. But when push came to shove, the Green Wave slammed the Pirates onto the ice.
This was one team putting on a show in all areas, and the other an unwilling participant.
“They move so well without the puck and we had a really tough time finding players in our defensive zone as they were constantly moving,” Moe said. “When you’re not ready to match that offensive intensity and you're not physically strong enough to stop them from getting there then you're gonna have a tough time in your defensive zone.”
There were saving graces, like junior goaltender Grace Koshney’s 33 saves and the aforementioned high compete level.
But more than anything, Thursday night showed just how great the gap is between the East Grand Forkses, the Warroads and Thief River Fallses at the top of Section 8A, and Crookston at the bottom.
It’s a gap that won’t be closed solely through a positive attitude, a relatively deep roster or a competitive mindset. But all those things provide a starting point.
“We need to be able to compete against (East Grand Forks) in order to take that next step … and really be in those high-pressure situations,” Moe said. “That's part of it too, where we’re competitive up and down the ice. But to be able to take that next step and finish the plays off, prove it on the scoreboard, that's the next step we have to get to.”
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