Mounds View goalie Alek Van Valkenburg strikes a classic pose as he makes one of his 22 saves against North St. Paul. Photo by Adam Crane
Andrew Bjorklund takes an old-school approach to hockey, which is to say there is nothing fancy about his game.
Or, for that matter, in the succinct manner in which he describes his playing style.
“I just like to play the game and go hard,” the Mounds View senior forward said after scoring three goals in the Mustangs’ 4-1 victory over North St. Paul in the regular season finale on Saturday, Feb. 16, at Shoreview Ice Arena.
If any player was going to register a hat trick in a game in which both teams agreed to trade in their modern, composite sticks for retro-styled wooden versions, it had to be Bjorklund, who Mounds View coach Rick Thomas describes as something of a throwback.
“There’s just something about him,” Thomas said. “The way he carries himself, he reminds me of an old-school hockey player. He tries to make himself look rugged and things like that.
“He loves the game of hockey.”
Mounds View senior Andrew Bjorklund (10) scored three goals in the Mustangs' 4-1 victory over North St. Paul on Saturday. Photo by Adam Crane
Bjorklund, Mounds View’s leading scorer with 39 points in 25 regular season games, scored a goal in each period to help the Mustangs take a 4-0 lead. For a second or two, Bjorklund thought his night was over after the third goal.
“He came to the bench and I said, ‘Hey Bjork, good night. You’ve got your three goals, take a seat now,’ ” Thomas said. “And he said, ‘OK coach, thanks.’ ” And I said, ‘Nah, I’m just kidding, get back out there.’ ”
All of Bjorklund’s goals were the result of heavy pressure applied by the Mustangs’ forecheck. Loose pucks seemed to find a way to Bjorklund’s new, old-style stick, and he wasted little time in depositing them in the net.
Bjorklund has hat tricks in each of his last two games and 20 goals in all as Mounds View heads into the postseason.
The Mustangs will, no doubt, go back to their more expensive composite sticks for the playoffs. Even Bjorklund said his hat-trick stick will most likely serve as a backup from here on out.
Still, he said was happy to have the opportunity to go retro for one night, at least.
“Through this whole process I’ve been thinking a lot about (the motion picture) Miracle,” Bjorklund said. “They are in the locker room taping up their wood sticks, and a lot of our guys went with the old school designs on the stick.
“We had a lot of fun with it, for sure.”
Mounds View goalie Alek Van Valkenburg stays in position to make a save on North St. Paul's Tyler Oliver. Photo by Adam Crane
North St. Paul coach Jerry Diebel lost count of how many posts and crossbars his players hit in Saturday’s loss to Mounds View.
Six? Maybe seven?
"I think we hit three crossbars in one shift," Diebel said.
It was just one of those (slightly) off nights for the Polars, who had plenty of prime scoring chances but only a series of loud clangs and pings to show for them.
“Our captain always says we are a millimeter away from happiness,” Polars junior forward Tyler Oliver said. “Hopefully the bounces will start coming our way.
“We’ve hit posts all year.”
Neither Diebel or Oliver were blaming the wooden sticks used by both teams in an attempt to show that there are viable alternatives to high-priced equipment, especially for younger players just learning the game.
“It’s always fun to go back to what you first started playing with,” Oliver said. “From the time I started playing hockey up until my last year of mites I was using a wood stick. Even in Squirts and Pee Wees I used them for a while, just out of sheer cost.”
Diebel said he didn’t notice any particular change the wood sticks had on Saturday’s game. Not on the ice, anyway.
“Our locker room smells a lot better with all the wood sticks,” he said. “Way better. You can smell the wood.”
Tools of the trade: Mounds View and North St. Paul players show their wooden sticks before Saturday night's matchup. Photos by Adam Crane
Senior forward Andrew Bjorklund scored three goals, and senior goaltender Alex Van Valkenburg made 22 saves while coming 15 seconds within a shutout as Mounds View beat North St. Paul 4-1 on Saturday, Feb. 16, at Shoreview Ice Arena in a game in which all players from both teams used “throwback” wooden sticks instead of the modern composite versions.
Bjorklund, described by Mounds View coach Rick Thomas as somewhat of a throwback himself because of the way he approaches the game, scored once in each period and had a chance for a fourth goal in the third but his slap shot on a partial breakaway was stopped by North St. Paul goaltender Mario Bollman.
The wooden sticks left no noticeable impact on the way the game was played, as passes and shots all had a routine appearance. The biggest change likely was the sound of the game, as it the puck made a much softer noise when it left the wooden sticks.
North St. Paul hit at an estimated six or seven posts and crossbars, including three on one shift.
Justin Oliver ruined Van Valkenburg’s shutout bid when he scored with 15 seconds remaining. Mounds View had purposely taken a too many men on the ice penalty just seconds earlier, as Thomas sent all of his seniors on the ice (it was Senior Night for the Mustangs) for a faceoff in the North St. Paul end.
John Sarafolean also scored for the Mustangs.
Bollman finished with 24 saves.
1. Andrew Bjorklund, Mounds View
The senior forward scored three goals – one in each period – and nearly had a fourth when he unloaded a booming slapshot in the third period. Bjorklund displayed his mischievous side after the game, when he was one of the players who smeared cake in goaltener Alex Van Valkenburg’s face while Van Valkenburg was conducting an interview.
2. Alex Van Valkenburg, Mounds View
The senior was making just his third start but it didn’t show, as he was cool under fire, expressed only mild disappointment in losing his shutout with 15 seconds remaining and even handled the postgame cake incident with poise and grace.
3. Jacob Tretsven, Mounds View
Yet another Mustangs senior with a big night, the hard-working Tretsven had assists on all three Bjorklund goals thanks to his grinding in the corners and tenacity in the crease area.
North St. Paul and Mounds View players strike a pose with their wood sticks before Saturday's game at Shoreview Ice Arena. Photo by Adam Crane