This year’s Blake squad looks different than last season’s Bears in many ways.
New head coach Jon Sturgis is the most noticeable difference, but the Bears also lost their top three scorers, (George Ordway, Donald Chute, and Ryan Bullock) who combined for 125 points and led the team to a 21-3-2 record before losing to Orono in the section 2A playoffs.
In a season with so much new, the biggest bright spots for Blake have been forwards Zach Doerring and Spencer Naas, who were with the club through the transitions.
“Last year we were kinda overshadowed by some of the older guys that were really big for us and scored a lot of points,” said Naas, a sophomore. “When those guys left there was some more pressure on us but we both worked hard in the summer, we both want to get better and so far it’s been fine.”
In Saturday’s 6-4 victory over Minnehaha Academy (7-4-2) at Minnehaha Academy Ice Arena in Minneapolis, the pair was more than fine, tallying seven total points and scoring Blake's first two goals of the game. The first goal was a nifty pass across the crease from Naas to Doerring, who buried it, and the second was from Doerring to Naas, on a similar cross-ice pass.
“They were buzzing, they had a lot of opportunities,” said coach Jon Sturgis of the two. “Both Zach Doerring and Spencer Naas, I thought played well in the first period and they capitalized on some of the opportunities.”
The Bears (7-6-0) have been up-and-down so far this season, so Sturgis decided before the game that he would mix things up a bit and reunite the forwards who had been on separate lines for most of the year.
The decision paid dividends, and fast.
“It’s been a while since we started playing together, but today coach decided to put us back on the same line,” Doerring said. “We’ve had good chemistry for the past year and we were just really feeling it tonight. Really good communication, we just know were the other person is gonna be.”
“We kinda have different styles,” Naas said. “He’s more of a bigger, power guy, and I’m a little smaller so we kind of use our different styles to make plays for each other and open up some space so it works well.”
On the season, Naas (22 points) and Doerring (18 points) are respectively first and second in scoring on the Bears.
Consistency, not scoring however, has been the problem for Blake. Both forwards have been instrumental in keeping the team on track in places besides the score sheet.
“It’s different when a new coach comes in,” Doerring said. “You gotta keep the team together, keep coherent, make sure everyone’s on the same page for everything.”
Blake survived an onslaught from the scrappy Redhawks and turned the tide late in the third period with two goals to win 6-4 in the Jan. 7 matchup at Minnehaha Ice Arena.
The Bears (7-6-0) had taken a 4-1 lead early over Minnehaha (7-4-2) before coughing up three straight goals, leaving the score at 4-4 early in the third.
With 9:09 left to play, sophomore Johnny Austin found space against Minnehaha goaltender with an upper-corner slap shot on the power play to make it 5-4. Just 53 seconds later, with 8:16 left, Blake Szalapski tipped a shot from the point that slid into the net, sealing the game.
The first period belonged to the Bears, who received goals from sophomore forward Spencer Naas, senior forward Zach Doerring, and junior defenseman Peter Hildreth.
Senior Michael Fabie, who scored a shorthanded goal in the first, scored early in the second and senior Andrew Wray added another in the period.
Goaltender Matt Hultman made 58 saves in the game and kept the Redhawks in contention.