Duluth East players celebrate in front of Grand Rapids goalie Hunter Shepard after Meirs Moore's game-winning goal on Thursday night. Photos by Dave Harwig, ViewThroughMyLens.net
Duluth East’s loss to crosstown rival Duluth Denfeld on Tuesday night – the first loss the Greyhounds had suffered against the Hunters since 1995 – left a locker room full of players and coaches with a bad taste in their mouths.
“It wasn’t very pleasant,” said Duluth East junior defenseman Phil Beaulieu. “I couldn’t really sleep on Tuesday night.”
Coach Mike Randolph wasn’t pleased, either, and he decided to send a message.
By using both verbal and visual motivations, Randolph did his best to try and get the ‘Hounds up and ready for their 7AA showdown with Grand Rapids on Thursday, Jan. 10.
He posted copies of the Duluth News Tribune with pictures of the Denfeld win in the locker room. He also told the ‘Hounds that they needed a clear focus if they hoped to get back to their game.
“He came in and said we need to start playing defense first,” Beaulieu said.
Phil Beaulieu wheels up ice during Thursday's game against Grand Rapids.
On Thursday, Duluth East was about as focused on the defensive side of the puck as it gets.
A 2-1 win says “defensive hockey,” but it was the other statistics that really told the tale of the contest. The ‘Hounds outshot Grand Rapids 33-9, blocked at least 15 shots and limited the Thunderhawks to only a handful of chances.
“It was a playoff type game,” Randolph said. “What we needed to do after the fiasco on Tuesday was get back to our game, and we did. It’s defense first, and I thought our defensemen were outstanding.”
Duluth East's top two defensive pairings – Beaulieu with Meirs Moore and Alex Trapp with Andrew Kerr – have been lights-out in each of the ‘Hounds victories this season, and the goals-against average in those wins proves that.
Some of the defensive success has to do with the support offered by the forwards on the backcheck or in the defensive zone, but a lot of it has to do with the specific attributes each pairing brings to the game.
Beaulieu and Moore are the playmakers at the point, and they often show up on the score sheet – Moore scored the winning goal against Grand Rapids, which was assisted by Beaulieu.
Trapp and Kerr are the shutdown guys, whose job consists of making the smart plays and hitting anything that moves.
Against the Thunderhawks, there was nearly perfect execution out of both pairings, but while the lamp-lighting of Moore and Beaulieu eventually won the game for Duluth East, it was the body bruising of Trapp and Kerr that put the ‘Hounds in the position to win.
“Everyone was playing the body; that was probably the biggest reason we won,” said Trapp, a 5-foot-9 junior that hits like he’s twice that size. “They couldn’t get in the zone.”
“Those guys bring the type of skills that any team would want” added Randolph. “All of our defensemen played well, and we expect that out of them because that’s where our experience is.
"We needed this game to get back on track, and I thought the guys came out and played an outstanding game.”
Duluth East's Ryan Lundgren scores on a second-period breakaway. Photos by Dave Harwig, ViewThroughMyLens.net
Duluth East's Alex Trapp (5) connects on a hit against Grand Rapids forward Avery Peterson (8) on Thursday night in Duluth. Photos by Dave Harwig, ViewThroughMyLens.net
Meirs Moore's power-play goal at 11 minutes, 13 seconds of the third period lifted No. 7-ranked Duluth East to a 2-1 win over No. 13 Grand Rapids in a giant section 7AA showdown on Thursday, Jan. 10, at the Heritage Sports Center in Duluth.
With time winding down on a Greyhounds’ man-advantage, Moore grabbed a pass from teammate Jack Forbort and sent a seeing-eye shot through traffic and over Grand Rapids goalie Hunter Shepard’s glove to put the ‘Hounds in front for good.
The win was Duluth East’s fifth one-goal win against Grand Rapids in a row, dating back to the 2009-10 season.
Meirs Moore celebrates after his game-winning goal on Thursday.
The two teams traded second-period goals, with Avery Peterson making a beautiful play to give Grand Rapids the game’s first goal just 2 minutes, 42 seconds into the middle period before Duluth East’s Ryan Lundgren answered with a breakaway tally just 30 seconds later.
Shepard battled through an illness to stop 31 shots, while counterpart Dylan Parker made eight saves for Duluth East.
The ‘Hounds (9-4-0) will be on the ice next when they host Eden Prairie on Saturday.
The Thunderhawks (9-4-2) have a rematch with Cloquet/Esko/Carlton on Tuesday, but they will be without forward Cody Mann, who received a game disqualification for a hit he delivered on a Duluth East player after the game had ended.
1. Meirs Moore, Duluth East
With his power-play goal, which was the game-winner, Moore now has goals in four straight games. He was his usual self on Thursday; he moved the puck well, played solid defense in his own end and shot from everywhere.
2. Hunter Shepard, Grand Rapids
Although he was feeling a bit under the weather on Thursday, Shepard made some beautiful stops on his way to a 31-save effort. Only a junior, he’s arguably the most athletic goalie in Minnesota.
3. Alex Trapp, Duluth East
While Moore was busy chipping in on the offensive attack, Trapp was busy separating Grand Rapids players from the puck. Trapp connected on a handful of huge hits while keeping the Thunderhawks’ offensive weapons frustrated all night.
Avery Peterson sneaks a shot past Duluth East goalie Dylan Parker on Thursday night. Photos by Dave Harwig, ViewThroughMyLens.net