Crookston can't keep up with Red Lake Falls in first game back
RED LAKE FALLS — The Crookston boys' hockey team got a rude welcome back to the ice.
Just 53 seconds into Thursday night's game, Zak Kennett fired a shot past Noah Dragseth to give Red Lake Falls a 1-0 lead in the Pirates' first game in 12 days.
"We're a little rusty," said Crookston coach Josh Hardy. "They come out and score right away, and that kind of woke us up."
Although Hardy thought the Pirates played a solid first period from there, they just didn't have what it took for the last 34 minutes. Behind a hat trick from Ty Kennett and two more goals by Zak Kennett, the Eagles rolled to a 7-1 win Thursday at Cardin-Hunt Arena.
Crookston (1-6, 1-3 Section 8A) was supposed to host Kittson County Central last Thursday and Red Lake Falls last Friday. The Pirates, already with a thin roster, were ready to play with just nine players against the Bearcats, but when a few more players were unavailable for various reasons, they had to cancel.
"You can't put players out there in a situation where they're maybe going to get hurt," Hardy said. "It was a tough decision, but I think at the end of the day it was the right decision."
While Crookston had enough players to play Thursday, it still wasn't at full strength. Top defenseman Noah Kiel (Sr.) was ineligible to play due to a game misconduct penalty he committed in a 4-2 win over Lake of the Woods on Feb. 6.
But if the two cancelled games had any silver lining, it was that the Pirates, who never stopped actually practicing, were able to get plenty of practice ice time for younger players and others who typically wouldn't receive it, developing their depth as a result.
One of those players, freshman Ashton Shockman, made it pay off. Nine minutes into the first period, Shockman jetted down the right side with the puck and lashed a shot over the shoulder of Andrew Johnson to tie the game at 1-1.
"Good things happen when you put the puck on net," Hardy said. "Ashton's got a nice shot, was able to go top shelf. Not sure the goalie was able to even see it. That was a big-time goal, and I'm excited for him to get his first one."
Crookston made a valiant effort to keep the score knotted, despite a 21-5 disadvantage in shots on goal after the first period. But the Kennett brothers of Red Lake Falls were too much. They had a hand in all seven of the Eagles' goals, and they combined for 11 points in all.
Ty Kennett and Evan Girdler scored on almost identical plays in the second period, jamming pucks into the net from the doorstep. Ty Kennett then made it a three-goal game on a 2-on-1 with 6:17 before the second intermission, and RLF (8-3, 5-2) didn't look back.
Baseball caps and other hat varieties rained onto the ice with four minutes to play, as Ty Kennett's third goal of the night made it 7-1.
Dragseth, who stopped 42 shots on the night, elicited an "oh, man," from Hardy upon being mentioned postgame. Without a "tremendous" performance by the senior goaltender, Hardy thought the final margin would have been much larger than six goals.
"I thought we played okay in the first," Hardy said. "After that, Red Lake Falls really took it to us. They got a nice team over here. The Kennett boys are great. Their two lines, two sets of D, I thought they were very solid and their goalie was solid tonight."
Last week's cancellations were particularly untimely for Crookston, which was coming off its first win of the season. Hardy admitted that "momentum-wise, it was not great for us."
But that didn't alter the task ahead of the Pirates Thursday night: jumping back into the water and getting back to full speed.
"Tomorrow we'll be full strength for first time in a while, so I'm excited about that," Hardy said. "We're just gonna get back to work."
UP NEXT: Crookston travels to Warroad Friday night to take on the sixth-ranked Warriors (5-3-2, 3-1).
"Not gonna get any easier for here," Hardy said. "But I'm looking forward to the challenge."
Red Lake Falls 1-3-3—7
- 16:07 first period (RLF): Zak Kennett (Evan Girdler, Nathan Huot)
- 7:40 first period (Crookston): Ashton Shockman
- 14:31 second period (RLF): Ty Kennett (Zak Kennett)
- 7:40 second period (RLF): Evan Girdler (Zak Kennett, Ty Kennett)
- 6:17 second period (RLF): Ty Kennett (Zak Kennett)
- 9:19 third period (RLF): Zak Kennett (Ty Kennett) short-handed
- 7:48 third period (RLF): Blane Schmitz (Zak Kennett)
- 4:32 third period (RLF): Ty Kennett
- Crookston: Noah Dragseth 42 saves on 49 shots
- Red Lake Falls: Andrew Johnson 19 saves on 20 shots
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