Crookston boys' hockey season in review
This article is the sixth in a series recapping the winter sports season for Crookston High School and the University of Minnesota Crookston. Previously: UMC women's basketball, UMC hockey, UMC men's basketball, Crookston boys' basketball, Crookston girls' hockey. Today: Crookston boys' hockey.
From the outset, this season appeared as if it would be a rebuilding one for the Crookston boys' hockey team.
After losing a large crop of seniors from last season's group which went 5-22, the Pirates entered the 2021 campaign with a young roster and relatively low numbers. With powers like East Grand Forks, Thief River Falls and Warroad in Section 8A, competing was always going to be a challenge.
At first, Crookston showed some offensive promise, even as it was overmatched in most games. While opponents beat the Pirates with superior depth and experience, the Pirates averaged over three goals per game during the first half of the season behind a strong first line of Alex Longoria, Kaleb Thingelstad and Jack Doda.
Injuries and close contacts for COVID-19 posed another challenge. Crookston experienced two separate pauses due to lack of numbers, the first from Feb. 11 to Feb. 18 and the second from March 4 to March 16.
As a result, the Pirates lost six games on their schedule, and lost a bit of momentum as well. They scored just 10 goals over the final seven games of the regular season, and their campaign ended with a 7-1 defeat at Thief River Falls in the Section 8A quarterfinals.
Crookston was at least fortunate enough to finish its season in the postseason, unlike section foe Detroit Lakes, which had its season ended prematurely due to COVID-19 concerns. The Pirates made it to the end, and that knowledge counts for at least something in a season as turbulent at this one.
- Record: 2-11 (2-7 Section 8A)
- Regular season: sixth in Section 8A
- Postseason: lost 7-1 at Thief River Falls in Section 8A quarterfinal
- Team stats: 29 goals, 92 goals allowed, 291 shots on goal, 636 shots on goal allowed
- Statistical leaders: Kaleb Thingelstad (7 goals, 11 assists), Jack Doda (7 goals, 7 assists), Alex Longoria (6 goals, 4 assists), Noah Kiel (4 goals, 3 assists), Jackson Demarais (0 goals, 3 assists), Carter Nelson (1-5, .864 save percentage, 6.48 goals allowed per game)
- Seniors: Carter Nelson, Gabe Montieth, Gavin Anderson, Kaleb Thingelstad, Noah Kiel
Thingelstad was a revelation this season, doubling his career scoring output in just six games while leading Crookston's first line. And when the Pirates needed a big goal, he was the one scoring it.
In Crookston's 4-2 win over Lake of the Woods on Feb. 6, he blocked a shot late which eventually led to a game-clinching empty-net goal. Thingelstad also scored the winning goal with two minutes left in overtime against Park Rapids on Feb. 25, the Pirates' first overtime winner in more than two years.
Crookston will graduate five seniors from this year's team, including Thingelstad, who led the Pirates in scoring. Noah Kiel was a steady offensive presence with his shot from the blue line, and Carter Nelson was also steady in goal. Gavin Anderson and Gabe Montieth made contributions as well.
Doda and Longoria, sophomores this season, looked the part of future offensive cornerstones, as both averaged around a point per game. The Pirates will also look for more improvement from young players such as Ashton Shockman, Nathan Kelly and Thor Harbott, who played spurts of varsity action this season.
Help could be on the way as early as next season, as the Crookston School Board approved a potential co-op with Fertile-Beltrami and Sacred Heart in February. If the arrangement goes through, it's help the Pirates could certainly use as they look to replenish their numbers and rebuild their roster.
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