It started out well enough for Crookston boys' hockey.
After the Pirates and Detroit Lakes felt each other out for the first seven minutes, Crookston earned a power play. Leyton Salentine (Sr., D) fired from the point, Jack Doda (Fr., F) got his stick on it and Joey Doda (Sr., F) did the rest, burying the puck to give the Pirates a 1-0 lead.
But the Lakers' Alex Bren tied the game with four minutes to play in the first period. From there, a depleted and fatigued Crookston team didn't have enough to stay in the game, as Detroit Lakes scored two in the second and one in the third for a 4-1 win at the Crookston Sports Center on Tuesday.
"I thought our effort was great today. Everybody out there worked their tails off," said Crookston head coach Josh Hardy. "Lots of positives to pull from here, but obviously disappointed not to get it done tonight."
The Lakers improved to 8-8-2 and 4-3 in Section 8A, while the Pirates dropped to 1-15 and 1-6.
Tuesday's game marked the latest chapter in what has become a rivalry of sorts — Detroit Lakes knocked Crookston out of the section playoffs last season, and was looking to close out a season sweep on Thursday night.
"There's a lot of tension every game we play these guys," Joey Doda said. "We all know they're a similarly skilled opponent and we always have a chance to beat them."
That chance had been made tougher days before the game, though. The Pirates were without three key players — their second-leading scorer Ben Andringa (Sr., F), Kaleb Thingelstad (Jr., F) and Noah Dragseth (Jr., G) — due to injuries.
The injuries to the trio meant that Crookston had to play a much thinner bench, with many players in new roles as well. This cost the Pirates in the second period and beyond, where they struggled to track back in transition especially.
"We didn't play that well in transition today," Doda said. "Just didn't get to the net, didn't make the right passes on the rushes. ... We weren't picking up guys coming back that well."
Crookston simply didn't have enough gas to respond when Bren scored his second by ricocheting the puck off the back of Carter Nelson (Jr., G) and into the net. Spencer Bergman's goal, 90 seconds later in the second period, was just about the death knell.
The Pirates didn't give up any more goals for the next 25 minutes — an accomplishment, considering they faced a five-minute major in the third period and a stretch of 5-on-3 hockey — but their chances of coming back were officially put to bed when Beau Boehne scored an empty-netter with one minute to play.
"I thought we played a pretty good first period, we just made some mistakes in the second period and in the third we just didn't have the push that we needed to come back," Doda said. "That's how it goes sometimes."
Nelson stopped 29 of the 32 shots he saw, winning praise from Doda and his coach. Quinn Westlake (Sr., F) and Alex Longoria (Fr., F), among others, stepped up into roles they hadn't played this season and acquitted themselves nicely.
But Crookston came in hurting, and it showed in the score — if, according to Hardy, not in the Pirates' effort.
"I was pleased to see our senior leadership group take their game to the next level," Hardy said. "They gave it everything they got tonight in a game they really needed it."
UP NEXT: The Pirates head south to take on Northern Lakes in Pequot Lakes on Saturday, Jan. 18. The Lakers are 7-7-1 on the season.
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