East Grand Forks' Zack Lawdermilt (8) scores his third goal of the game in overtime to give the Green Wave a 3-2 victory over visiting Warroad (Photos by Tim Kolehmainen).
East Grand Forks' Zack Lawdermilt
Whenever Zack Lawdermilt stepped onto the ice Friday night, the East Grand Forks crowd drew in its collective breath. They’ve seen his show before. The home fans knew to save their breath for a raucous cheer, because inevitably the senior speedster has given them something to shout about.
With 3 minutes, 57 seconds left in overtime, Lawdermilt capped a night full of “wow” moments with his third goal of the game, propelling the Green Wave to an important 3-2 victory over Section 8A rival Warroad at the East Grand Forks Civic Center. The crowd – and his teammates – let out their saved cheers in one long bleacher-shaking moment.
“I guess I just had good puck luck tonight,” grinned Lawdermilt, who crashed the net hard on the winning play. He tapped the puck into an open net after Andrew Gregoire’s shot ricocheted around the crease, bounced off the Warriors’ defensemen, goaltender Andy Foster and the far right post before finally coming to a rest on Lawdermilt’s stick.
“That’s a goal scorer,” smiled co-head coach Tyler Palmiscno. “Goal scorers, sometimes you don’t see them until they’re right by the net and the puck is in it.”
While much of the game was a tight-checking affair with plenty of dump-and-chase hockey, when the Green Wave’s top line of Lawdermilt, Gregoire and junior Tommy Hajicek was on the ice, it made things happen with its speed. All three players can fly, but Lawdermilt is the leader of the supersonic crew.
“Zack has such dynamic legs,” said Palmiscno. “I grew up here and I’ve coached here now and played at UND. I haven’t seen a high school kid who can explode through the neutral zone like he can. Without a doubt he can create a lot with his speed.”
Lawdermilt’s big effort has helped the Green Wave to a 5-1-0 record through six games and a No. 5 spot in the MN Hockey Hub’s Class A rankings. He was limited to just 15 games last winter as East Grand Forks posted a sub-.500 record (10-15-1), but still earned All-State honorable mention and nearly led the team in scoring with 10 goals and 26 points.
Zack Lawdermilt (8) scores the game-winner in overtime to beat Warroad, 3-2.
Lawdermilt isn’t a big player, just 5-foot-8 and 160 pounds, but he uses his quickness and feel for the game to create dangerous plays on nearly every shift.
“Coach just told us to use our speed and obviously we were the quicker team tonight,” said Lawdermilt. “He just told us to wear their D-men down and win races to the puck. Just use our speed to go around them and go to the net. That’s what we did.”
Palmiscno admitted it wasn’t the most aesthetically pleasing game, with lots of dump-and-chase hockey and plenty of turnovers.
“I think that’s what you get sometimes when you have two teams that have played so many playoff games in the last 10 years,” continued Palmiscno. “But we were able to make the last play and that was the difference.”
More often than not, those difference-making plays came from Lawdermilt.
He opened the scoring in the first period, then sent the game to overtime with a play similar to his game-winner. With East Grand Forks trailing 2-1 midway through the third period, Lawdermilt was cruising along the far right wall while teammate Kolton Aubol was forcing a goal-mouth scramble in front of Foster. Suddenly, the puck squirted out of the scrum and over to Lawdermilt, who ripped it into the open net from a bad angle.
Friday night’s hat trick was Lawdermilt’s third of the year, following a three-goal outburst against Park Rapids in the Green Wave’s first home game on Dec. 2 and another three-goal night at Orono on Dec. 9. Lawdermilt hasn’t been held off the scoreboard in any game yet this year. Through five games he has 12 goals and 17 points, putting the senior on track to break a pair of long-standing school records.
Rick Meyers (1974) and Tim Schroeder (1971) share the school record for single-season goals (31), while Tim Mishler (1982) had more points in a season (55) than any other Green Wave, a record that was tied by Jake Useldinger (2010).
East Grand Forks' Hunter Aubol (1) makes a save on a shot from Tommy Astrup (9), one of his 27 saves.
Veteran ‘tenders shine
It was an open question of whether the game would end in a tie, as both teams featured a pair of three-year starters in nets in Hunter Aubol (East Grand Forks) and Andy Foster (Warroad) who seemed willing – and plenty capable – of making spectacular game-saving stops.
“They’ve played in this game quite a few times. You can tell that by both their calm and poise and ability to make big-time saves,” said East Grand Forks co-coach Tyler Palmiscno.
Aubol, as he often has in his back yard, got the final bragging rights as he stopped 27 of 29 shots. Foster made 19 saves for the Warriors. The two goals allowed by Aubol were unusual in his home rink, as it brought his career total in three home games against Warroad to just three. Aubol was at his best at key moments of the game, including a pair of buzzer-beating shots at the end of the second and third periods.
“I’ve seen a lot of games and I always know whenever there’s anything on that clock, there’s a chance for that puck to go in the net,” said Aubol. “You always have to be ready for that last shot, no matter where that play is on the ice.”
Defending home turf
East Grand Forks beat Warroad at home early last year, but then lost the last two to the Warriors, including a 3-2 overtime decision on the Section 8A semifinals. The Green Wave certainly enjoyed Friday’s victory, but they know there is plenty of season remaining.
“It’s a good step forward for us, but now we have to continue to improve,” said Palmiscno. “I think they know that a lot can happen over the next 2-1/2 months. Hopefully they enjoy it, but they know that we have a long way to go.”
Warroad coach Steve Haataja, in his first season with the Warriors after coming from Litchfield/Dassel-Cokato, was pleased with his team’s effort in spite of the loss.
“In overtime, they had a bounce there off a skate. This game could have gone either way,” said Haataja. “Our guys battled hard and you tell them, ‘You played well and there’s nothing to hang your head about. Just come out next time you play them and give the same effort.’”
Top line production
As did East Grand Forks, Warroad also had plenty of production from its top line, as the trio of seniors Tommy Astrup and Tyler Elson and sophomore Kyle Sylvester had both goals. Sylvester assisted on both goals by his linemates, which briefly gave the Warriors a 2-1 lead early in the third period.
“If they have some space, they’ll make plays,” said Haataja.
“Their top line is pretty good, too, with Elson, Sylvester and Astrup,” said Palmiscno. “They created a lot of problems for us.”
Warroad's Andy Foster (31) made this save on Zack Lawdermilt (8) in the second period, keeping the game tied at 1-1.
Zack Lawdermilt capped his hat trick with the game-winner just over four minutes into overtime to give East Grand Forks a 3-2 victory over Warroad at the East Grand Forks Civic Center Friday night, Dec. 16. Lawdermilt's tally off a goal-mouth scramble set off a mad celebration for the Green Wave (5-1-0), who made a statement in the Section 8A race with the win over the Warriors (4-3-0).
Warroad took a 2-1 lead at 3 minutes, 56 seconds of the third period as Tommy Astrup slammed in a crossing pass from Kyle Sylvester. Sylvester also assisted on Tyler Elson's goal at 15 minutes, 2 seconds of the second period that tied the score at 1-1.
But Lawdermilt answered back just over 3-1/2 minutes later, ripping in a bad angle rebound from the right face off dot. Junior Kolton Aubol had set up on the left side of the net, causing Warroad goaltender Andy Foster to scramble for his first shot. As he tried to get to the rebound, Lawdermilt beat everyone to the puck for the tying goal.
Warroad outshot East Grand Forks for the game, 29-22, but Green Wave goaltender Hunter Aubol came up big with 27 saves, including one each in the final second of the second and third periods. Foster finished with 19 saves for the Warriors.
1. Zack Lawdermilt, East Grand Forks
What more does a player have to do to earn the No. 1 star of the game? The speedy senior forward scored all three goals for the Green Wave, including the tying goal midway through the third period and the game-winner with 3 minutes, 57 seconds remaining in overtime. Lawdermilt used his explosive skating burst to create scoring chances all game long, but it was his goal-scorer's touch and knack for being in the right place that allowed him to get the hat trick. On both of his final two goals, the puck found his stick on a scramble in the Warroad crease.
2. Hunter Aubol, East Grand Forks
The Green Wave's senior goaltender has started for three years and played in plenty of East Grand Forks-Warroad games. It showed, as his focus and leadership in nets calmed the Green Wave defense. Aubol made 27 saves on 29 shots, including two buzzer-beaters at the end of the second and third periods.
3. Kyle Sylvester, Warroad
Sylvester assisted on both Warriors' goals and was a key part of Warroad's explosive first line with Tommy Astrup and Tyler Elson. The Warriors' breakout often found the lanky senior forward on the left wing, where he carried the puck into the Green Wave zone and set up his teammates.