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Blue collar effort is Bears way

By Justin Magill, MN Hockey Hub staff, 01/11/12, 10:00PM CST

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White Bear Lake takes down conference rival Stillwater with hard work, hustle

With what seemed like every second that came off the scoreboard, White Bear Lake was playing better and taking up more space on the ice.

Playing against a conference rival and one who put the only blemish on what would have been a perfect Suburban East record, the Bears dominated Stillwater en route to a 4-1 victory.

Stillwater managed 12 shots on goal, and few were of the high-scoring variety.

"It makes it a lot easier to win the game when you don't see 30 to 40 shots a game," Bears goalie Anthony Zappa said. "The guys played really well in front of me all night."

It just wasn't the way White Bear Lake played in the defensive zone that kept the Ponies' offense in check.

To allow only 12 shots on goal, the Bears' offensive attack was working just as well, if not better, than their defense.

They continued to work the puck all over the Ponies' zone, and if it was coughed up or dump-ins were sent to the corners, often it was a Bears player who came out with it.

"I think our speed just got to them," Bears coach Tim Sager said. "And that is what we need to do against these teams. We talk about it all the time, because we don't have the scoring that we did last season.

"What we do have is guys on our team that now know what can happen when you come out to play like this. I was really happy with the way we played."

Thomas Delaney got the Bears on the board early when he blasted a shot just inside the blue line that beat Stillwater goalie, Blake Cates.

In the second, Jack Morrisette just threw the puck at the net. With his teammates crashing the crease and creating chaos around the Ponies goal, White Bear Lake had a 2-1 lead.

Again, taking an aggressive approach, Neal Burke got the puck low, inside Stillwater's zone and without hesitation, charged to the net and slid a shot between Cates' legs.

"We're at a point where all of our guys are buying in," Jack Morrisette said. "At the beginning of the year, that was different, but we have guys that are working hard and doing what it takes to score goals and win games."

On the other side, Stillwater appeared to have troubles right from the drop of the puck.

Breaking out of the zone soon became a small feat for the Ponies.

"In the first period, i think they were ready to play and we weren't, Ponies coach Phil Housley said. "They came out with a lot of fire, and we didn't adjust to that."

Along with its aggressive play, White Bear Lake played a third forward high in the zone, which eliminated a chance for a home-run pass to spring either an odd-man rush or breakaway.

"We talked a lot about keeping that third guy high," Mitch Morrisette said. "There have been some times where we gave up a big play, and those really didn't happen tonight because of that."

The Bears have won four of their last five and have taken notice of what happens when they are ready from the drop of the puck.

Their only loss was to No. 5-ranked Edina by the score of 3-2.

"I think we have seen this year that we can play with some of these teams," Sager said.

Statistics, Summary

Game Recap

White Bear Lake allowed only 12 shots on goal and took down Suburban East Conference rival, Stillwater, 4-1 on Thursday, Jan. 12 at the Vadnais Sports Center.

Thomas Delaney opened the scoring for the Bears when he fired a hard slap shot by Ponies goalie Blake Cates.

With just 12 seconds in the first period, Stillwater tied the game on its third shot of the game, when Zach Fedie tipped in a shot by Jake Cass.

In the second, Jack Morrisette scored the eventual game-winning goal on a shot from the left wing boards that was able to get back Cates, who was trying to find the puck through traffic.

Neal Burke gave White Bear Lake a 3-1 lead, when he grabbed the puck from the corner, skated toward the front and slid a shot through the five-hole of Cates.

With just more than a minute left, Mitch Morrisette added and empty net goal to conclude the scoring.

In a typical rivalry game, there was plenty of physical play, which can result in a large amount of penalty minutes.

Stillwater had a total of 24 minutes in the penalty box, while White Bear Lake had 17.

White Bear Lake remains unbeaten in conference play (7-0-1) and improved its overall record to 8-5-1 on the season.

It will travel to play Hastings on Saturday, Jan. 14.

Trying to keep up with the Bears will be that much more difficult for Stillwater as it falls to 4-2-2 in Suburban East play and 6-5-2 overall.

The Ponies will host Forest Lake on Saturday, Jan. 14 at the St. Croix Recreation Center.

1. Jack Morrisette, White Bear Lake
On top of scoring the eventual game-winning goal in the second, Morrisette was a key figure in the way the Bears locked down Stillwater to only 12 shots on goal. The defenseman was part of a collective effort in disrupting the Ponies in all areas of the game.

2. Thomas Delaney, White Bear Lake
The Bears dominated the first period, but were having problems solving Stillwater goalie, Blake Cates. Delaney was able to answer that issue when he ripped a shot just inside the blue line to open the scoring. He was also part of the defensive crew that frustrated and shut down Stillwater offensively.

3. R.J. Majkozak, White Bear Lake
Even though he did not record a point, Majkozak was a factor in moving the puck from the Bears blue line, hitting his teammates with long, breakout passes, which continually put pressure on Stillwater. He was also imperative in the offensive zone, where he again used his play-making skills in setting up players for high quality scoring chances, especially on the power play.

Conference Standings

Statistical Leaders

How They've Fared

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Micah Miller leaps to the fans after scoring the game winner.

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Moorhead's Jack Stetz (21) throws his arms up as he and his teammates celebrated the win. ] ANTHONY SOUFFLE • anthony.souffle@startribune.com