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Grand Rapids wins season opener against Minnetonka

By Loren Nelson, SportsEngine, 12/02/16, 7:00AM CST

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Gavin Hain scored twice as the Thunderhawks defeated the Skippers in overtime 3-2.


Grand Rapids forward Gavin Hain netted two goals, including the game winner in overtime Friday night to beat Minnetonka 3-2. Photo by Korey McDermott, SportsEngine


Blake McLaughlin (7), of Grand Rapids, celebrates the first goal of the game during the second period against Minnetonka on Dec. 2. Photo by Korey McDermott, SportsEngine

Micah Miller played the role of speedster, Blake McLaughlin the instigator and, on this night like so many others, Gavin Hain was the finisher.

Grand Rapids’ lethal forward combination, perhaps the best in the state (what other team can form a power trio of three Division I commits?) was effectively shackled for most of Friday’s matchup against Minnetonka.

Yet, even when they weren’t at their best, the Thunderhawks’ top forward line still managed to conjure enough magic to secure a season-opening 3-2 overtime victory over the Skippers.

And by magic, we mean Hain stripping the puck from Minnetonka sophomore defenseman Grant Docter just seconds after the opening faceoff in overtime, then whipping a shot into the Skippers’ net to end the Pagel Activity Center game in stunningly sudden fashion.

“Not the guy you want to see have the puck on his stick,” Minnetonka coach Brian Urick said about watching Hain, a junior who has committed to play at North Dakota, streaking in alone on Skippers senior goaltender Matt Muller.

“He was carrying it up and I just kind of poked at it and it came right to me,” Hain said about stripping the puck from Docter, who along with partner Zach Van Sant had played shutdown defense on Grand Rapids’ top line all night.

Part two of the winning play required beating Muller. So Hain opted for a quick head fake, step to his left and laser shot, a move he said he had been practicing all week.

“When you have a close one against a good team, and you manage to pull it off, it makes it all the more special,” said Hain, who along with McLaughlin had such brilliant youth hockey careers – leading Grand Rapids to a state Bantam title - they were committed to Division I schools (McLaughlin is headed to Minnesota) before their sophomore seasons.

By magic, we mean Hain depositing the puck past Muller just 25 seconds in the third period to tie the score at 2. A massive momentum-boost for the Thunderhawks, considering they had fallen behind 2-1 on a goal by the Skippers’ David Andes with 70 seconds left in the second.

By magic, we mean Miller, a senior, routinely using his rocket-boost speed to wheel around Skippers defenders for close range shots.

“It’s crazy,” Hain said about the speed of Miller, a St. Cloud State recruit. “I thought I was fast, and I can’t catch him to save my life.”

By magic, we mean McLaughlin scoring a first-period goal, then sprinting straight toward the Minnetonka student section, pounding the glass as he led the Thunderhawks’ celebration. McLaughlin engaged in “conversation” with multiple Skippers players all night and drew an after-the-whistle roughing penalty on Minnetonka’s Zach Van Sant, who was sent to the penalty box for poking his glove into McLaughlin’s facemask.

“He’s a kid you hate to play against,” Hain said. “He always does that stuff. He gets inside your head. He’s a good guy to have on your team.”

Hain isn’t a bad guy to have wearing your colors, either.

“He’s got a lot of hockey sense and a lot of ability to make plays like that,” Grand Rapids coach Trent Klatt said. “You put them on the ice and you hope they make you look good.”

Klatt did make one lineup adjustment in overtime, breaking up his top line.

“We had all of our eggs in one basket for the better part of the game, and we thought in overtime we would just split it up a little bit to see if we can’t keep someone (from the top line) on the ice at all times to see if we could get an opportunity to score,” he said.

Minnetonka, ranked eighth in Class 2A in the latest coaches' poll, almost ended the game in the final minutes of regulation, as junior Joe Molenaar, one of the Skippers’ most dangerous offensive threats, found himself on the far side of the net with the puck. He fired at a seemingly open net, only to have Gabe Holum, the No. 3-2A Thunderhawks goaltender, dive through the crease and make a sprawling save.

“We had our chances to win, and we didn’t bury,” Urick said after his team fell to 0-2-0. “Defensively I thought we were fine.”

First Report

Junior Gavin Hain scored on a breakaway 11 seconds into overtime to lift Grand Rapids to a 3-2 victory over Minnetonka on Friday at the Pagel Activity Center in Minnetonka.

The Thunderhawks, ranked No. 3 in Class 2A in the latest Let's Play Hockey poll, rallied from a one-goal deficit to start the third period when Hain, who has committed to play at North Dakota, corralled a loose puck in the slot and beat Minnetonka goaltender Matt Muller to tie the score at 2 just 25 seconds into the period.

Hain’s overtime winner in Grand Rapids’ season opener came after the No. 8-2A Skippers started the overtime by winning the opening draw. The puck slid back to sophomore defenseman Grant Docter, who had trouble getting a handle on it before a poke-checking Hain gained control and streaked in alone on Muller. After a quick head fake, Hain fired a rising shot into the left side of the net.

David Andes had put Minnetonka (0-2-0) ahead 2-1 with 70 seconds left in the second period, taking a centering feed from defenseman Zach Van Sant along the boards and breaking in alone on Gabe Holum. Andes ripped a shot that slid underneath the Thunderhawks’ goaltender.

The Thunderhawks’ (1-0-0) Blake McLaughlin and the Skippers’ Luke Loheit traded goals earlier in the second.

Minnetonka outshot Grand Rapids 8-6 in a fast-paced and scoreless first period highlighted by the play of the goaltenders. Holum, a junior, made eight saves, and Muller, a senior, made six. Both controlled their rebounds well, limiting any second-chance opportunities.

The Thunderhawks loaded a powerhouse forward line with its three Division I-committed forwards – senior Micah Miller (St. Cloud State), junior Blake McLaughlin (Minnesota) and Hain. Minnetonka countered by deploying the defensive pairing of Docter, a sophomore, Zach Van Sant, a senior, every time Grand Rapids’ top line was on the ice.


Gavin Hain circles the net after scoring his game-winning goal. Photo by Korey McDermott, SportsEngine


Grand Rapids goalie Gabe Holum with a save on a shot by Minnetonka's Joe Molenaar during action Friday night in Minnetonka. Photo by Korey McDermott, SportsEngine

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Moorhead's Jack Stetz (21) throws his arms up as he and his teammates celebrated the win. ] ANTHONY SOUFFLE • anthony.souffle@startribune.com

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Micah Miller leaps to the fans after scoring the game winner.