By: Derek Martin
With a win or tie in four of their last five games, the Pirates are playing their best hockey at the end of the season. That solid play continued in the beginning of the first period and the entire third period but the lapse in between cost Crookston an important 4-2 loss to Section 8A foe Lake of the Woods at home on Saturday.
The Pirates fell to 6-15-3 on the season and 2-9-1 in Section 8A play. The Bears are now 12-11-1 overall and 6-4-1 in the section.
“Every game is a learning experience and this was one about taking a period off,” said Pirate head coach Jon Bittner. “If this helps us at tournament time then I’ll take it. If it doesn’t then we didn’t learn from this like we should have.”
Bittner went on to describe what he saw in the second period where his team didn’t play with the same aggressiveness and edge like it showed in the first or third periods.
“It was a brutal period,” he said. “It looked like open hockey out there. They had numerous odd-man rushes. We would either dump the puck into the zone with room in front of us or make a play at the blue line. You see that and you know we’re not locked in.”
Coach Bittner was impressed with the play of Lake of the Woods goaltender Alex Lyon, who stopped 27-of-28 shots in the third period.
“They have great goaltending and good team defense,” he said.
Lake of the Woods got on the board first just seven seconds into the first power play of the game at the 3:39 mark of the opening period when Justin Peters took a hard slap shot from the point that was knocked down in front of the net. Travis Tom found the puck and punched it in for the early 1-0 lead.
Morgan Terpstra tied it up about five minutes later as his sharp angle shot deflected off a Bear defenseman and found its way into the net. Ryan Edevold and Connor Morgan were credited with the assists.
The lead lasted for just a minute when a shot by Wade Holen deflected off Pirate goaltender Nick Biermaier’s stick and popped up in the air. Biermaier couldn’t find the puck as it fell behind him and into the goal with 7:10 remaining in the first period.
The second period was all Lake of the Woods as they notched goals at the 6:24 mark by Travis Mollberg and at the 15:18 mark on a two-man advantage by Tom to make it 4-1.
Crookston responded in the third period and dominated play with a 28-1 difference in shots. However, Lyon was stellar in the net as the Pirates only notched one goal.
With 8:35 left on the clock, Mark Bittner carried the puck into the Bear zone and put a shot on net. He followed up his shot and got the puck behind the red line where he hit Brandon Larson in the slot, who blasted a one-timer into the net. Alex Prudhomme was also credited with an assist on the play.
The Pirates had two more power plays in the remaining minutes of the game, including a nearly four-minute long man advantage with two overlapping penalties.
Lyon and the Lake of the Woods defenders stayed busy in the final minutes killing the Pirate power plays with numerous quality scoring chances by Crookston.
Biermaier recorded 16 saves in the game, while Lyon turned away an impressive 44, including 27 in the third period.
The Bears finished a perfect 3-of-3 on the power play, while the Pirates were 0-for-4.
Crookston will finish out its regular season Tuesday in Red Lake Falls against the Eagles in another important Section 8A game. The puck drops at 7:30 p.m.