From the opening whistle, it seemed like the game plan for Team Northwest was to hit Team North hard and often.
Not a bad strategy, given that the teams weren’t just jostling for position on the ice but for first place in the Upper Midwest High School Elite Hockey League standings in their Saturday, Oct. 9, meeting at New Hope Ice Arena in New Hope.
“Last time we played them we were up by a good amount and they came back and beat us, so we knew it was going to be a physical, hard battle,” said Benilde-St. Margaret’s junior Jake Horton (pictured at left), a defenseman for Team Northwest (9-4-0). “Then after that questionable call on the no-goal they just came out flying, so we had to match that.”
Horton was referring to a potential goal that was waved at the end of the second period. That goal would have tied the game for Team North (8-4-1) after Horton had scored a power-play goal to put Team Northwest ahead 2-1 – a goal that came after Horton twice had found himself in the penalty box.
“First one I could feel my stick get caught in the guy so I thought ‘this is going to happen,’ ” Horton said about his first penalty. “The next one I get out and I thought I was just going hard. I didn’t expect it. Skating to the box I thinking to myself ‘What is going on?’ I was kind of freaking out.
“I get back in the locker room and coach goes ‘Horton, one more penalty and you’re done.’ I thought ‘Oh, that’s reassuring.’ ”
By Elite League rule, any player who takes three penalties in a game received an automatic game ejection.
Horton thankfully stayed out of the box and in the game for Team Northwest. On the ice during a power play, Horton received a pass and fired it towards the net and past Team North’s goaltender Alex Lyon of Lake of the Woods.
“I was sitting with a teammate on the bench and he goes, ‘That’s the way to make up for your two penalties.’ and I said ‘Yeah, guess so!’”
Of course, the highlight of Team Northwest’s defense was its netminder, Elk River junior Anders Franke.
“I was seeing the puck a lot better today than most games, but I have to give credit to my defense they helped me out a lot today with scrums in front of the net,” Franke said. “It helped me a lot.
“You have to bring the intensity every game and come out to battle every game just like everyone else. Just like Lyon down there – he was battling hard, saw a lot of shots, made a lot of great saves. Game in and game out, you have to battle hard.”
Although Team North struck first on a power-play goal by Edina’s Ben Walter, Franke saw his teammates score four unanswered goals to give him an easy cushion.
“When you know you have your team behind your back and they’re blocking shots for you, getting scrums in front of the net and scoring goals, it helps a lot,” Franke said. “It takes the pressure off.”
After the horn signaled the end of the game, Franke was surrounded by his teammates after making 28 saves. It has seemed like the norm for Franke to see 30-40 shots every game, busywork he knows will help him improve.
“It’s going to help greatly,” Franke said. “Seeing that much rubber brings my game up a little more every game. I’m excited to bring that back home to Elk River.”
Both Horton and Franke have been essential parts to Team Northwest’s success in the Elite League and are hoping their improvement will carry over to the varsity season.
“Playing here has helped pick up the tempo a little bit,” Franke said. “The games are going to be a lot slower going back to the high school games because of all the great competition here. The games here are fast and you have to make quick decisions.”
Added Horton: “It’s a lot of fun, and I’m playing with five other guys from Benilde-St. Margaret’s, so it’s bringing back a lot of team chemistry from here. It’s really high-paced and it will lead our team in fast to the high school season.”
-- Mike Murakami, Hockey Hub staff writer
1. Anders Franke, Team Northwest
The junior goaltender from Elk River made 28 saves and expertly controlled his rebounds, offering few second-shot chances for Team North. It was the second impressive win in as many starts for Franke, who beat Shattuck-St. Mary’s 3-2 on Oct. 3.
2. Alex Lyon, Team North
The senior goaltender from Lake of the Woods made 36 saves and routinely was tested with point-blank shots. Like his counterpart, Franke, Lyon did a good job scooping up rebounds or directing them out of play in a game in which both teams had numerous quality scoring chances.
3. Jake Horton, Team Northwest
The junior defenseman who plays for Benilde-St. Margaret’s scored the winning goal in the second period on a low shot from the point and showed some grit in the defensive zone (he took two penalties) against a hard-hitting group of Team North forwards.
Virginia’s Garrett Hendrickson (pictured at left) is one of the chosen few Upper Midwest High School Elite Hockey League players who doesn’t have to concern himself with impressing the large band of scouts in attendance for each league game.
A 6-foot-1, 175-pound senior, Hendrickson is one of just four state players who have so far verbally committed to Division I programs entering the high school season.
Still, the high-scoring forward who has committed to St. Cloud State isn’t particularly happy if he isn’t, well, scoring.
“We had lots of chances, my line, in the first couple of weekends and we just couldn’t bury it,” said Hendrickson, who managed just two points in his first four games. “Then they started going in. We’re getting more comfortable out here playing as a line.”
Hendrickson, who now leads Team North with 13 points (five goals, eight assists) in 13 games, has been playing primarily on a line with Brainerd’s Josh Archibald and Grand Rapids’ Patrick Moore.
The son of Virginia coach Keith Hendrickson, Garrett is in his third Elite League season. Last winter he scored 77 points (33 goals, 44 assists) in 31 games to lead the Blue Devils to their second straight state Class A tournament appearance.
“There should be a good chance for us again,” Hendrickson said about a return trip to the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. “Playing there is pretty special.”
Anders Franke of Elk River made 28 saves, and defenseman Jake Horton of Benilde-St. Margaret’s scored the winning goal in the second period as Team Northwest beat Team North 4-1 and moved into first place in the Upper Midwest High School Elite Hockey League standings on Saturday, Oct. 9, at New Hope Ice Arena in New Hope.
Horton’s goal came on a power play, as his low shot from the point skipped through heavy traffic in front of Team North goaltender Alex Lyon of Lake of the Woods and into the net to put Team Northwest ahead 2-1.
T.J. Roo of Totino-Grace and Pat Steinhauser of Benilde-St. Margaret’s scored in the third period as Team Northwest (9-4-0) pulled away from Team North (8-4-1) in the battle of league leaders.
Ben Walker of Edina scored to put Team North ahead 1-0 late in the first period, but he exited after the second period with a serious shoulder injury and didn’t return.
Trailing 3-1 late in the third period, Team North had a chance to climb back in the game on a power-play, but Cameranesi, the Elite League scoring leader with 23 points, scored a shorthanded goal with 4:05 remaining to put the game out of reach.