Tanner Picht (7) celebrates one of his two goals with linemates Kelly Engquist (4) and Mac Beyer (11) in Morris/Benson Area's 8-3 victory at Breckenridge/Wahpeton Tuesday night. Photos by Tim Kolehmainen.
The Storm's Mac Beyer (11) battles with Breckenridge/Wahpeton's Tyler Gripentrog (5).
Hockey’s own version of the optimal lineup goes something like this.
It’s led off by the hard-checking grinder who isn’t afraid to do the dirty work in the corners and in front of the net. He gives way to the sharp-eyed playmaker, who sees the entire ice. His passes find the stick of the sniper, who buries them in the twine.
Bing, bang, boom. Like a well-oiled machine.
To the enjoyment of coach James Kennedy and a good-sized visiting crowd, Morris/Benson Area (5-10-0) certainly had its optimal lineup firing on all cylinders Tuesday, Jan. 17 at the Stern Arena in Wahpeton, N.D. The Storm’s top line of grinder Mac Beyer, playmaker Kelly Engquist and sniper Tanner Picht combined for four goals in an 8-3 victory over host Breckenridge/Wahpeton (7-4-0).
“Kennedy had them ready to go and they were roaring,” said Blades’ coach Todd Dwyer, whose team fell behind 5-0 after one period as each member of the Storm’s top line notched a goal in that stretch.
After Luke Schwarz got the Morris/Benson Area on the board just 1 minute, 6 seconds into the first period, the trio went to work. Beyer ripped a low shot past Blades’ goaltender Wyatt Hedrick just over two minutes later with an assist from Engquist. Picht tallied the next goal midway through the period as he found a gap in the defense and exploited it. Engquist netted the next goal on the power play with 5 minutes, 55 seconds to go in the first.
“Once we got the first one, we just kept on going,” said Engquist. “We haven’t been playing well, so hopefully this will spark us.”
With Morris/Benson Area already up 4-0 and its top line clicking, Dwyer immediately called time out. It knocked the Storm out of cruise control, but the Blades were unable to fully recover. The quick scoring outburst was a relief to Kennedy at the Storm, who have been finding themselves behind early in games and forced to rally. In three straight losses heading into Tuesday night, the Storm had scored just five goals and fallen behind in each.
“It’s a downer. It deflates us,” said Kennedy. “We needed that first one.”
As it did Tuesday, any spark will most certainly come from Beyer to Engquist to Picht.
“Those three work very well together,” said Kennedy, who described the relationship his top line has on the ice, each with their optimal roles. Beyer (7-9-16) is fourth on the team in scoring this season, while Engquist (6-16-22) paces the Storm in assists. Picht (14-10-24), as he did with two goals Tuesday night, often buries it when he gets the chance and leads the team in goals.
“Tanner’s a very unique player,” laughed Kennedy. “It looks a little unorthodox at times, but he has own little style. He has a lot of talent and sees the ice well.”
Goaltender Matt Huot (30) made 20 saves for Morris/Benson Area, including this stop of Blades' leading scorer Cody Bronson (2).
Major penalties, major changes?
The MSHSL's new emphasis on enforcing three dangerous penalties -- boarding, checking from behind, and head contact -- certainly came into play in Morris/Benson Area's 8-3 victory over Breckenridge/Wahpeton at the Stern Arena in Wahpeton, ND Tuesday, Jan. 17. But not in the way most would expect. There was no flurry of power play goals on major penalties. Instead, it merely changed the flow of the game.
"We felt the wrath of the 5-minute major penalties," said Blades' coach Todd Dwyer. "It wasn't unexpected. We talked about it and I wish we would have responded better. We took a tough lesson."
Visiting Morris/Benson Area stormed out to a 5-0 lead through 15 minutes without benefit of any five-minute majors against the host Blades. But as the momentum swung in favor of the home team, a pair of 5-minute majors stemmed the tide.
First, senior Jordan Olson was sent off with 1 minute, 12 seconds left in the first for a check from behind deep in his own zone. Olson appeared to have a clean bead on the Storm forward, who spun out of his way and in so doing, took the brunt of Olson's check in the back. Olson was hit with a 5-minute major and a 10-minute misconduct. Then with 6 minutes, 34 seconds to go in the second, Breckenridge/Wahpeton's Brandon Wixo was nailed with a 5-minute major for head contact after he rubbed out the smaller Storm forward along the boards. Morris/Benson Area didn't score on either power play, but it effectively slowed down the Blades' scoring rally.
Visiting Morris/Benson Area stormed out to a five-goal lead after one period and cruised to an 8-3 victory against Breckenridge/Wahpeton at Stern Arena Tuesday night, Jan. 17.
The Storm (5-10-0) picked up goals from five different players during the outburst – Luke Schwarz, Mac Beyer, Tanner Picht, Kelly Engquist and Riley Blake.
Picht (two goals, one assist) and Engquist (one goal, two assists) each had three-point nights, while Schwarz finished with two goals and Beyer had a goal and an assist. The Storm scored on five of their first six shots and were actually outshot in the first period, 11-7. But they made them count in an important Section 6A seeding game.
Clay Bassingthwaite recorded a goal and an assist for Breckenridge/Wahpeton (7-4-0), which is in its first season in Minnesota State High School League play after participating in North Dakota previously. Cody Bronson chipped in with a short-handed goal, his team-leading 16th of the year.
Senior Matt Huot made 20 saves in goal for the Storm, while senior Wyatt Hedrick had 15 saves for the Blades.
1. Tanner Picht, Morris/Benson Area
The Storm's "designated sniper" certainly did his job Tuesday night, burying a pair of goals and adding an assist. Crafty and able to find open ice in which to do his work, Picht scored the Storm's third goal in a five-goal first period outburst -- and assisted on what turned out to be the game-winner on the power play 1 minute, 35 seconds later. But his biggest goal came with 3 minutes, 58 seconds to play in the game as he cruised through the slot and buried the puck to push Morris/Benson's lead back to 6-2.
2. Kelly Engquist, Morris/Benson Area
If Picht is the sniper, Engquist is the man loading his rifle. Engquist has great vision on the ice and has a knack for finding his teammates. He did that with a pair of assists, but also chipped in with the game-winning goal with 5 minutes, 55 seconds left in the first period.
3. Matt Huot, Morris/Benson Area
Huot was only called upon to make 20 saves, but he was steady when he needed to be. The senior goaltender was staked to 5-0 lead after one period, which certainly helped. But with the Blades threatening to rally, his glove snatched up numerous scoring chances.