Don't look now, but the Crookston girls' hockey team's years of youthful struggle are starting to pay off.
The Pirates earned their third straight win — and by far their biggest in recent memory — on Tuesday night when they defeated Bemidji, 4-0, in Bemidji.
"To go in and beat a Double-A school handily and shut them out, play really well in the defensive zone, and to be able to score some goals, just a great overall win," said Crookston head coach Tim Moe. "That's huge for us as a program and just another step forward for us."
Crookston (4-5) came into Tuesday with confidence, coming off commanding wins at Morris/Benson and Prairie Centre last weekend. But the Pirates expected to do that, as both Morris/Benson and Prairie Centre have struggled even more than them as of late. Against the Lumberjacks, a team from Class AA that has beaten East Grand Forks, Thief River Falls and Detroit Lakes already, Crookston expected to merely compete.
Beat them? If everything went just right, sure.
But not like this.
"We knew coming into this, Bemidji would be a whole different test," Moe said. "To go in and have the performance we had is just an exciting thing for the program, and it was nice for the girls to see that they can compete with some of the bigger schools. ... I was hoping to eke out a win at the end, but the girls did a fantastic job and made it pretty easy at the end."
It was pretty easy at the beginning, too. Kendall Bergquist (So., F) scored the Pirates' first goal six minutes into the game, unassisted. Nora Peterson (Jr., F) found the net two minutes into the second period off a feed from Morgan Nelson (8, D), and scored her second midway through the third, assisted by Raina Satrom (8, F) and Cassie Solheim (8, F).
"(Peterson's) line has really been clicking well and she's had three goals in the last two games to show for it," Moe said, referencing her game-winner in Saturday's win over Prairie Centre.
Grace Koshney (Jr., G) made 21 saves, registering her second shutout in a row, while Nelson scored her first career goal on an empty-netter with two minutes left.
With that, Crookston sealed its fourth win — as many as it had all of last season.
"I knew we could compete," Moe said, "and the girls stepped up in a great way tonight."
And all that competing — as Moe has hoped for all year — is starting to turn into concrete progress.
UP NEXT: The Pirates host section opponent Detroit Lakes (1-8) on Thursday, Dec. 12 at 7 p.m.
"Going into this week we knew that it was gonna be a tough week, against competition that we've had trouble with in the past," Moe said. "(Bemidji) is just game one of three for the week, and now it's a huge section game for us on Thursday against Detroit Lakes to see where we are in relationship to them."
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