Royals defeat Raptors, Wolfpack
A six-game winning streak and now some elbow room atop the Suburban East Conference -- life ain't bad for the Woodbury boys hockey team.
"We're feeling pretty good about ourselves right now," coach Wes Bolin said.
The Royals remained undefeated in 2010, increased their lead in the conference and re-claimed District 833 bragging rights last week with back-to-back victories against neighboring East Ridge and Park.
"We're picking up a few wins here," Bolin said. "The kids are playing with purpose and doing what they need to do."
Two first period goals, matched by a pair of third-period tallies were more than enough for Woodbury to sweep its season series against intra-district rival East Ridge (3-14-1 overall, 0-11 SEC) as the Royals shutout the Raptors, 4-0, at the Bielenberg Sports Center on Thursday, Jan. 21.
Ben Rollins put the hosts up for good just two minutes, 26 seconds into the contest with a goal assisted by Colin Keefe and Connor Delaney.
Rollins' strike was followed up by Jonathan Gehrt's unassisted tally at 13:36 as Woodbury carried a 2-0 lead into the first intermission.
After a penalty-less opening frame, both squads were charged with three transgressions apiece as the second period passed sans scoring as East Ridge managed just one credited shot on goaltender Mike Ness in the Royals net.
Both teams would kill off short two-man advantages in the period as Raptors' netminder Andrew McDonough made 11 saves in the period after making 13 stops in the opening stanza.
McDonough would make 33 saves in all for the game, while Ness was required to make just 12 stops to earn the shutout victory.
Woodbury closed out the matchup with a pair of third-period power-play goals from Delaney and Keefe at :35 and 6:15, respectively. Max Gaede and Mike Mezzano assisted on Delaney's score, Jason Eddy and Matt Pederson each earned an assist on Keefe's tally.
"We limited East Ridge's shots and took care of opportunities in the first and third periods," Bolin said. "It was a good game for us."
What appeared was going to be an easy-breezy victory two nights later in Cottage Grove suddenly became a nail-biter before the Royals claimed a 6-5 victory to avenge an earlier-season loss -- Woodbury's only SEC setback this campaign -- to the Wolfpack.
"Park plays extremely hard, as we found out in December," Bolin said.
Park (4-12-1, 3-7-1) took a 1-0 lead with an early power play goal before bang-bang scores from forwards Gaede -- assisted by Tyler Nowicki -- and Andrew Shock at 8:34 and 9:12, respectively, gave the visitors a 2-1 advantage.
The Wolfpack would muster one more tally before the period ended as the teams skated into the locker room knotted at 2-all. However, all the second period scoring belonged to Woodbury.
After over 11 minutes of play without a score, the Royals put up three tallies in just over five minutes to apparently put the game away.
Delaney gave Woodbury a lead they would not give up with the first strike on the power play at 11:07, assisted by Gehrt and Gaede, before Pederson's unassisted goal at 13:13 increased the lead to 4-2.
Then, in the closing seconds, Keefe scored again for the visitors, assisted by Delaney and Rollins, to put the Royals up 5-2 at 16:41.
Park opened the third period with an apparently innocuous goal on the power play at 7:57 -- a score that was promptly matched by a Gaede power-play goal, assisted by Walker Hyland and Gehrt, at 9:44, that put WHS back up 6-3.
Gaede's tally would prove to be crucial, however, as the Wolfpack jammed home two goals late -- the final score with just eight seconds remaining -- as Woodbury got out of the Cottage Grove Ice Arena with the slimmest margin pf victory.
"Give Park credit, they battled to the end," Bolin said.
The wins pushed Woodbury's record to 11-6-1 overall with the Royals suddenly enjoying a two-game lead in the SEC over Forest Lake (10-3-2, 7-2-2).
This week's games could go a long way towards determining whether the Royals will earn their third-straight SEC title as Bolin's club hosts league No. 4 Stillwater (9-7-1, 7-3-1) on Thursday, Jan. 28, before traveling to Forest Lake two nights later.
"We've won six in a row, we're hoping to make it eight in a row after this week," Bolin said.