By Tim Droogsma
Last Sunday in Blaine, Team Northwest handed Team North its first loss of the season and climbed into first place in the Elite League.
Saturday in Fargo, North returned the favor, building a 4-0 lead before hanging on through a frantic third period for a 5-3 win and a move back into first place.
Team North’s roster includes seven players from last year’s State Class A High School championship Hermantown team, and several of those Hawks teamed up to provide a 2-0 first period lead. Tyler Watkins scored just 3:26 into the game, and in the final minute of the period Ryan Sandelin got loose on a breakaway and tucked a backhander in for his sixth goal of the season.
At the other end of the rink, Hermantown goalie Cade McEwen was stopping all 20 first-period Northwest shots, including a pair of spectacular saves. McEwen would go on to stop 42 of 45 shots in the game.
It looked like the game might become a rout in the second period, when North extended its lead to 4-0. The third goal came in spectacular fashion when Garrett Worth (Duluth East) had a shot from the slot that was stopped, and he was knocked down by a defender. But while lying on the ice, he was able to gather in the puck and flip a shot over the goalie’s shoulder for a highlight-reel tally.
Dylan Johnson (Cloquet) made it 4-0 at 10:35, taking a nice pass from John Stampohar (Grand Rapids) and breaking in alone for the goal. At that point Northwest took a time out, and gathered at the bench to hear from coach Tadd Tuomie.
Whatever he said worked. Four minutes later, James Marooney (Holy Family) scored an unassisted goal to get Northwest on the board. The lead was cut to 4-2 at 17:39 when Griffin Ness scored a shorthanded goal.
Northwest cut the margin to 4-3 and set the stage for an exciting finish 10:13 into the third period when Grant Troumbly (Greenway) scored. Northwest applied constant pressure the rest of the way, but couldn’t get another one past McEwen, and Gavin Hain (Grand Rapids) added an empty-netter just before the buzzer for the final score.
North and Northwest played three times in the Elite League regular season, with each team winning once, and one game ending in a 3-3 tie. They have taken turns atop the league standings, and there’s a chance they’ll meet again in the league playoffs Oct. 28-30.