Edina's Cullen Munson goes for the puck behind outstretched Grand Rapids forward Reid Holum as Thunderhawks goaltender Hunter Shepard scrambles to get back in the crease. Photo by Brian Nelson
Grand Rapids coach Bruce LaRoque couldn’t help but smile.
Asked about facing No. 1-ranked Edina and star Connor Hurley after the Hornets’ 6-2 bashing of his team on Thursday, Dec. 20, at Braemar Arena in Edina, he just let out a sigh.
“Him and the rest of the group of Edina Hornets,” LaRoque said. “They come at you in waves and certainly he’s a skilled player. I’d like to watch him – you don’t get a chance as a coach.”
Hurley and crew couldn’t be contained Thursday, as he scored twice -- once on a penalty shot – to lead the Hornets (7-0-0) to victory.
After getting dragged down on a breakaway, Hurley was awarded a penalty shot. Hurley slowly glided in on net, corralling a puck that skipped over his stick and nearly bounced away. He tested Grand Rapids goaltender Hunter Shepard with a few dodges, blocker side, back – then over and back again. Finishing with his backhand, he put the Hornets up an impenetrable 5-0.
So did Edina coach Curt Giles hand off any words of wisdom to Hurley before he took the shot?
“Nope, absolutely not,” he said. “Best to leave that up to him.”
The Hornets scored just over 3 minutes into the game on a goal from Matt Masterman and never looked back, taking a commanding 4-0 lead by the end of the first period. Hurley, senior Ryan Hatch and senior Hayden Anderson scored in the period.
Edina looked stronger and faster, beating Thunderhawks' defensemen consistently and zipping passes all over the ice. The Hornets had countless odd-man-rushes.
“You’re trying to eliminate those things,” LaRoque said. “They’re so good they can create those two-on-ones and odd-man-rushes and you know you’re in trouble because going in you’re trying to stop that. But they’re gonna get you.”
The Thunderhawks (5-2-0) showed a bit more energy in the remaining periods where both squads scored two goals apiece. Senior Reid Holum scored in the second and junior Patrick Rajala scored his first goal of the year on a fantastic individual effort.
Shepard made 33 saves, facing a barrage of 39 shots. He was solid between the pipes in the second and third frames. Willie Benjamin, Edina’s goaltender, turned away 14 of 16 shots.
The game was the second of the night in Edina’s 31st annual Holiday Classic and was Edina's first game since Dec. 4.
Another solid night for Edina Goalie Willie Benjamin, as Grand Rapid's Reid Holum looks to score.
1. Connor Hurley, Edina
Dangles here, dangles there, dangles everywhere. Hurley looked like a player out of an NHL video game. He juked Grand Rapids goaltender Hunter Shepard twice, scoring both times. The Notre Dame recruit has 18 points (10 goals, eight assists) to lead the Hornets.
2. Tyler Nanne, Edina
Nanne benefitted being from lining up with Dylan Malmquist and Hurley and was flying all over the ice on odd-man-rushes and dominating play. Nanne finished with a goal and an assist, which puts him at fifth on the team with eight points (two goals, six assists).
3. Patrick Rajala, Grand Rapids
A bright spot for the Thunderhawks, Rajala caused a turnover and fended off an Edina defenseman, cutting in front of the net and scoring Grand Rapids’ second goal. It was his first goal of the year and his second point.