Mound-Westonka goalie David Engel (1) stopped 26 of 28 shots against Holy Family Catholic. Photo by Helen Nelson
The margin for error is microscopic when you play for a program that consistently churns out top-level goaltenders.
David Engel knows all too well a poor performance could relegate him to the bench – for the rest of his career.
The Mound-Westonka senior goaltender has been rotating starts with junior Andy Seats for parts of two seasons. Engel understands what a shaky goal or two – or even worse, an ugly loss – could mean to his status in the Whitehawks’ rotation.
“Basically, whoever plays the game is told, ‘You’ve earned it, cherish it,’ ” Engel said. “We’ll keep rotating until someone earns the spot. So there’s a lot of motivation.”
The luck of the every-other-game draw hasn’t been particularly favorable for Engel, who already has had to face two of the state’s most prodigious goal-scoring talents in Hibbing’s Adam Johnson and Holy Family Catholic’s Shane Gersich.
“You have to take it as, ‘They are a kid, just like you,’ ” said Engel, who improved his record to 2-1-0 after Mound-Westonka’s 6-2 victory over Gersich and Holy Family Catholic on Saturday, Dec. 10, at Thaler Sports Center in Mound.
Mound-Westonka goaltender David Engel gets in position for a shot from Holy Family Catholic's Garrett Riebling. Photo by Helen Nelson
Gersich, a freshman who is tied for second in the state in scoring with 18 points, registered an assist on the Fire’s first goal but was otherwise held off the scoresheet despite unloading numerous shots on the 5-foot-8 Engel.
“They have a great goaltender who we needed to get more traffic in front of,” Holy Family Catholic coach Noel Rahn said about Engel, who made 26 saves. “He saw a lot of shots clean. We just weren’t getting enough traffic in front of the net.”
Engel’s athleticism and positioning allowed him to make the difficult save look routine. The degree went beyond difficult in the third period, when Engel somehow managing to whip his blocker in front of a deflected, high-arcing puck that seemed destined to sail over his shoulder and drop into the goal.
“Engel is amazing,” said Whitehawks senior Riley Williams, who scored twice in the third period. “He played unreal tonight. He stood on his head and saved our butts.”
Engel was just as good on Nov. 26 in a game at Hibbing, when he made 32 saves in a 3-2 triumph over the Bluejackets. Johnson, a junior who has 12 points this season after scoring 85 in 31 games in 2010-11, scored both goals against Engel.
Mound-Westonka for years has had dedicated goaltender coaches at the youth levels and all the way up through the high school program. The Whitehawks’ notoriously disciplined defensive play also has allowed its goaltenders to flourish. Three seasons ago, Aaron Davis led the state with a .945 save percentage while posting a 1.92 goals-against average.
Engel has a .907 save percentage this season.
“When we don’t chase and play inside-out, we keep them away from good scoring chances,” Mound-Westonka coach Doug Runke said about shutting down a Holy Family Catholic offense that had scored six or more goals in each of its first four games. “That, and we got good goaltending.”
Holy Family Catholic freshman scoring sensation Shane Gersich received was smothered by Tanner Palm (7) and the Mound-Wetstonka defense. Photo by Helen Nelson
Mound-Westonka scored five unanswered goals in third period, including two from senior Riley Williams, and the Whitehakws held Holy Family Catholic freshman scoring sensation Shane Gersich to a single assist in a 6-2 victory on Saturday, Dec. 10, at Thaler Sports Center in Mound.
The Whitehawks (4-2-0) turned a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 lead early in the third period when Williams and Jeremy Schulz scored 47 seconds apart.
Williams scored again just 4 minutes, 50 seconds into the period to put Mound-Westonka ahead 4-2.
The loss was the first of the season for Holy Family Catholic after a 4-0-0 start to the season. Gersich, who ranked second in the state in scoring with 17 points entering Saturday’s play, set up the opening goal just 1 minute, 10 seconds into the opening period when he fed linemate John Peterson for a goal on a 2-on-1 rush.
Senior David Engel stopped 26 of 28 shots. One of his saves was a baseball swing swipe in the third period on a Gersich shot that was deflected high in the air and appeared to be headed straight down into the Mound-Westonka goal.
Sophomore Nick Schreiter made 28 saves for the Fire.
1. David Engel, Mound-Westonka
The 5-foot-8 senior goaltender stood tall in the third period when he made 10 of his 26 saves, including an acrobatic, baseball-swing stop of a deflected shot that sailed high in the air and was on a trajectory that would have dropped the puck in the Whitehawks’ goal if not for Engel’s alert waffle-pad swipe.
2. Riley Williams, Mound-Westonka
Blue-collar to the bone, the gritty, 5-foot-8 Williams was rewarded for his repeated kamikaze runs to the Holy Family Catholic with two third-period goals that gave the Whitehawks the lead and choke-hold on the momentum.
3. Shane Gersich, Holy Family Catholic
Just a freshman, the cashmere-smooth Gersich had little to show for being the best player on the ice. He notched an assist and fired numerous shots that were either stopped by Engel or sailed just over the crossbar.