Grand Rapids' Gain Hain scores past Elk River goaltender Ben Meyers in Saturday's Class 2A, Section 7 semifinal at Amsoil Arena. Photo by Dave Harwig, firstname.lastname@example.org
After an exciting victory over top-seeded Elk River, Grand Rapids heads back to Amsoil Arena on Thursday for the Class 2A, Section 7 final.
In the beginning, the Elks hit the ice fast and hard, dominating the first two periods with a 2-0 lead. The Thunderhawks, however, began to show life in the third period, with back-to-back goals 12 seconds apart.
After Elk River answered back with a goal to again take the lead, Grand Rapids scored two goals just over one minute apart, with an empty net goal that finalized the victory.
Junior captain Gavin Hain, senior captain Micah Miller and junior Blake McLaughlin have led the Thunderhawks in points throughout the regular season, so it’s no surprise that Grand Rapids' leading line scored four out of five goals. Hain netted a hat trick, with three assists from Miller, and two helpers from McLaughlin.
“We knew we had to do something," Hain said. "We knew once one goal went in we could take them, so we popped one dirty goal and went from there."
The Thunderhawks' performance in this game was eerily similar to last year’s Section 7 championship victory, where Grand Rapids fought from a two-goal deficit in the third period to ultimately defeat second-seeded Duluth East 6-5 and advance to the state championship.
“We were joking around about that a little in the locker room after the second, seeing if we would be able to pull out the same results, and we did,” Hain said, adding, “But honestly we can’t think about last year, we gotta focus on this year because we still have some unfinished business to take care of.”
Added Miller: “It felt really good, cause it took a lot of heart to come back in that game, I think we just needed one and that really got us going. We started moving our feet and outworking them.”
Thunderhawks coach Trent Klatt was relieved of the team’s victory.
“I don’t really know what to say. It was certainly a tale of two different teams and two different games if you look at the third period compared to the first two. I wish I could tell you that I have an explanation for it but right now I don’t," Klatt said.
Looking ahead to Thursday's Section 7 AA final, the Thunderhawks have high hopes in returning to the state tournament for the second year in a row.
“This team has had a goal of making it to the state tournament; we will watch to see who prevails in the next game and we’ll be back here to face them on Thursday night. It’s been a goal all year and we are very fortunate that we are in this place right now," Klatt said.
Grand Rapids will battle the winner of the Duluth East vs. C.E.C game at 7 p.m. on Thursday.
Elk River's Nate Horn carries the puck past Grand Rapids' Micah Miller during the Class 2A, Section 7 semifinal at Amsoil Arena. Photo by Dave Harwig, email@example.com
Grand Rapids will be heading to the Class 2A, Section 7 final after defeating Elk River 5-3 on Saturday afternoon at Amsoil Arena.
The Thunderhawks trailed the majority of the game, coming into the third period down 2-0. With an eerily similar performance to last year’s Class 2A, Section 7 finals, Grand Rapids was able to pull ahead in the last half of the third period for the win.
It was a battle of special teams in the first period, with two power play opportunities for Elk River (22-5) and one for Grand Rapids (19-7-1). Jack Perbix was able to get the Elks on the board with a power play goal early in the first, and they kept that lead for the remainder of the period.
Elk River was able to sneak another goal past Grand Rapids goalie Zach Stejskal in the second period, increasing the lead to 2-0 going into the third.
Grand Rapids began its comeback on a power play opportunity with nine minutes gone in the third period, with Gavin Hain pulling the Thunderhawks to within one. Just 11 seconds later, Grand Rapids forward Blake McLaughlin tied the game up 2-2.
Elk River didn't stop fighting, coming back to regain the lead on a Jack Perbix goal with 3:59 left to play, but 24 seconds later, Gavin Hain answered with his second goal. Just over a minute after tying the game, Hain netted his third goal of the day, giving Grand Rapids its first lead with 2:28 left to play.
The Elks pulled Ben Meyers out of the net with one minute left to play in hopes of taking the game into overtime, but the Thunderhawks cemented their spot in the section final by scoring an empty netter.
Elk River's Jack Perbix skates past Grand Rapids' Drake Anderson to score a first-period goal. Photo by Dave Harwig, firstname.lastname@example.org
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