Kiel records hat trick as Crookston beats Hillcrest Lutheran, 3-0, for first win
In 240 minutes of soccer prior to Thursday, Crookston had scored only one goal. It needed a lot less time to score its second.
Senior striker Noah Kiel headed home a Noah Dragseth corner in the third minute against Hillcrest Lutheran Academy, and the Pirates were off and running. Kiel scored twice more in the second half for his second career hat trick, allowing Crookston to take down the Comets, 3-0, for its first win of the season.
Kiel's goal was the culmination of an attacking first few minutes for the Pirates (1-3). They put their first shot on goal just 30 seconds into the game, and earned a corner two minutes later. Dragseth (Sr.) took it and delivered a line-drive across the mouth of the goal, which Kiel was able to head at an ideal downward angle past the Comets' goalkeeper.
"I think it helped us a lot to come out and realize that we can score goals and we can put the first goal in," Kiel said. " ... It made us look up a little more and keep our heads up and look for the open passes and not rush everything."
On Tuesday, Crookston fell 9-1 at Detroit Lakes in a game that was essentially over after the first 10 minutes. In the aftermath of that defeat, coach Lon Boike gave his team a new focus against Hillcrest (0-2): come out strong and set the tone.
Not only did the Pirates do that, they also got to play with a lead for the first time all season.
"That was fun," Boike said. "We hadn't done that before. It's nice to have that 1-0 lead, and as the game went on we just got more confidence and realized we can do more against those guys."
Indeed they did do more. Kiel missed on a second chance in the 35th minute, shooting over the crossbar on a counterattack. But he made no such mistake the next time he got the ball in the box, gathering a cross from Gabe Montieth (Sr.) before turning and firing it into the top left corner for a 2-0 47th-minute lead.
Kiel finished off his hat trick 15 minutes later. Taking a pass from Jacob Miller (Sr.) just at the edge of the Hillcrest third, he kicked the ball past a Comet defender and used his speed to do the rest, catching up to the ball and lasering it into the bottom left corner.
"Our touches as a team were pretty good, and I had pretty good touches myself, so that was nice," he said.
Crookston made a few other changes after Tuesday's loss. Most notably, though, was a new defensive formation. Instead of going with a flat back four, Boike implemented a diamond setup with Thor Harbott (So.) as the "stopper" up top and Dragseth as the "sweeper" behind Harbott and between the two outside backs.
While Dragseth commanded the Pirates' defense out of danger in the penalty area, Harbott tried to ensure there wasn't much danger in the first place.
"Some of the trouble we've been having lately is with a flat back, they were splitting our defense all the time," Boike said. "Thor's job was basically to push people to the side as the ball's coming up the field and trap whoever he can up there. That seemed to help us quite a bit."
It especially helped Kaleb Thingelstad (Sr.), who recorded his first career clean sheet in goal. While Thingelstad had 10 saves on the afternoon — compared to his 12 first-half saves at Detroit Lakes — Boike seemed even more impressed with his distribution.
"What was nice was he didn't have to stop 20 or 30 shots," Boike said. "He did a great job in goal and in kicking it out of there. He was kicking it beyond midfield in the second half and got the wind behind him, and that helps clear the defense too and keep the pressure down there on the other end. Kaleb always does a great job, so I was happy for him to get the shutout."
And as an added bonus, the Pirates got the chance to get their younger players into the game towards the end. There was a hint of irony to this — Boike thought Detroit Lakes ran up the score somewhat on Tuesday, leaving its starters in while he emptied his bench in the second half.
This time, instead of the waning stages of defeat, Crookston's reserves got to taste the fruits of victory.
UP NEXT: The Pirates travel to Pelican Rapids on Tuesday, Sept. 15 for a rematch with the Vikings, who beat Crookston, 5-0, in the season opener on Sept. 1.
"It doesn't get any easier for us," Boike said. "They beat us pretty good up here. ... We'll take what we learned today and hopefully a little confidence, and we'll go down there and see what we can do."
- 2:44: Noah Kiel (Crookston), assist Noah Dragseth
- 46:19: Noah Kiel (Crookston), assist Gabe Montieth
- 61:38: Noah Kiel (Crookston), assist Jacob Miller
- Crookston: Kaleb Thingelstad 10 saves (5 first half, 5 second half)
- Hillcrest Lutheran: Matthew Knutson 7 saves (4 first half, 3 second half)
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