Ben Andringa skated with the puck in the crease, and for a split-second, the net opened up and opportunity glimmered before him.

He didn't quite see it.

Sartell-St. Stephen won back the puck in its zone, immediately started a breakout and Hayden Walters gave the Sabres the lead for good.

The Crookston boys' hockey team fell to Sartell-St. Stephen, 3-1, on Friday night at the Crookston Sports Center in a game marked by chance after chance for both teams. The Sabres just finished more.

Sartell controlled the game's first 10 minutes, nearly scoring on a two-on-zero but for a fantastic stop by Noah Dragseth (Jr., G). But Crookston struck first, taking advantage of a five-minute major penalty to Sartell followed by a minor which set up a five-on-three.

Andringa took the puck into the zone and hit Joey Doda (Sr., F), who collapsed the defense around him before knocking it to Jack Doda. The younger Doda saw nothing but nylon.

"We like to move the puck around and find each other on the backdoor," Jack Doda said. "And we just knocked it in."

The 1-0 lead was the Pirates' first of the season.

"I thought we came out with a lot of jump," said Crookston head coach Josh Hardy. ... "We wanted to really push it towards the net, we wanted try to collapse everything and work for a backdoor shot and that's exactly what we did. ... Good players are gonna make you pay like that."

The Pirates kept coming, but they wouldn't cash in again.

The Sabres took the momentum back out of the break, outshooting the Pirates 12-3 in the second period before finally breaking the previously lights-out Dragseth when Will Schiffler found the net.

Sartell goalie Quentin Sigurdson, meanwhile, was even more lights-out than Dragseth, stonewalling Jack Doda and Kaleb Thingelstad (Jr., F) on prime chances in the second period.

Hardy has anticipated his team would play a more defensive style this season, so the 1-1 scoreline after 34 minutes was no surprise to him. How Crookston got there, though, was another story.

"Offensive ability, I'm a little surprised where we're at there," Hardy said. "If we can just get over that hump from creating chances to finishing chances, we're gonna be in good shape come January and February."

For now, it's November, and the Pirates still have a ways to go. That was apparent on Sartell's second goal, and perhaps even clearer on its third: Crookston played loose with the puck feet in front of its own net and completely lost sight of Tory Lund, who beat Dragseth five-hole.

This meant that Hardy, instead of congratulating his team on its first win, was forced to turn Friday night into one of hockey's most basic, and harshest, lessons: there's only one stat that really matters.

"I said, 'Hey, how's it feel?' It's not a lot of fun," Hardy said. "You let a game get away that you thought we were gonna win. And I'll bet you when you're in this situation again, you're not gonna let that happen."

UP NEXT: Crookston takes on Little Falls at 12 p.m. at the Crookston Sports Center. The game was originally scheduled for 3 p.m. but weather concerns prompted the game to be moved up.

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