Senior forward Adam Tjaden scored with two seconds left in regulation to complete his hat trick as St. Paul Highland Park snapped a 37-game losing streak dating back to last season with a 6-5 victory over Mankato East on Monday, Jan. 9, at All Seasons Arena in Mankato.
“It was actually about as good as a win as you can get for the first one,” Highland Park coach Tom Doyle said. “It was a really good game. It was back and forth the whole way.”
Technically, the victory was the Scots’ first since 1987, the last time they fielded an independent team before Doyle helped revive the program. The Scots went 0-25-0 last season in their return to varsity hockey, and they lost the first 12 games this season before notching their dramatic victory over the Cougars (3-11-0).
Tjaden scored the winner after a Scots’ 3-on-1 was thwarted and a scramble for the puck ensued in the Mankato East end. Tjaden grabbed a loose puck and found an opening past Cougars goaltender Aaron Kroeber.
“He had some net available, and it was a good hard shot,” Doyle said. “We were pressuring them pretty good.”
Before regaining its status as in independent program, Highland Park had funneled players into co-operative teams with numerous St. Paul schools. Most recently, Highland Park had been supplying players into St. Paul Como Park’s varsity program.
Doyle said the Scots’ long-awaited victory celebration didn’t get too out of control.
“They went pretty hard out onto the ice,” he said. “There were no gloves or sticks thrown in the air, you have to keep it respectable. But they jumped on each other.
“It was pretty good locker room to be in afterwards.”
Highland Park led 3-1 after the first period and held a 4-3 advantage heading into the third before the Cougars rallied to tie it at 4.
Highland Park went ahead 5-4 on a power-play goal by Connel McGough, his second of the game, with 6 minutes, 16 seconds remaing.
But again Mankato East rallied to forge a tie, as Shane Sellner scored with 3:54 remaining even the score at 5.
Walker Orenstein also scored for the Scots.
Jaako Jarvikare, Alek Schulz, Brad Johnson and Brent Adams were the other Cougars goal scorers.
Highland Park goaltender Howie Sands made 24 saves while Kroeber made 30 saves.
Tjaden's three goals give him a team-leading 10 this season. McGough, with five, is the only other Scots player with more than three goals.
St. Paul Highland Park and Wadena-Deer Creek were the state's last two winless teams heading into Monday's action.