Hill-Murray forward Jake Guentzel (No. 20) is able to beat Bears goalie Jared Schletty for a goal in the first period on Thursday, Dec. 22 at Aldrich Arena. Photo by Adam Crane
Hill-Murray forward Charlie Sampair scored four goals in the Pioneers 7-2 win against White Bear Lake on Thursday, Dec. 22 at Aldrich Arena. Photo by Adam Crane
Charlie Sampair scored early, he scored late and he scored often.
In front of what might possibly be the largest crowd the Pioneers will play in front of at Aldrich Arena, Sampair shined with four goals as Hill-Murray defeated White Bear Lake 7-2.
"It feels pretty good to do that against them (White Bear Lake)," Sampair said. "Tonight, things just clicked."
Sampair was joined by his linemate, Jake Guentzel, who had a goal and four assists, as the two Pioneers that accumulated five points.
Guentzel was the one shoveling out assists to Sampair, including his third goal for the hat trick early in the third.
Just 1 minute, 13 seconds into the third, Sampair took a pass from Guentzel and fired a quick one-timer past goalie Jared Schleety.
"He can make it pretty easy," Guentzel said of Sampair. "He is playing with a ton of confidence right now."
In the Pioneers victory against the Bears, Sampair's positioning on the ice was nearly perfect in the offensive zone as he was constantly finding that the puck was finding his stick as long as he was open, more so if Guentzel is delivering those passes.
"I have a great player in my line in him," Sampair said. "All you really have to do it find some open ice and he will hit you."
Early on in the young season, Hill-Murray coach Bill Lechner has been trying to find the line combinations that will benefit the Pioneers moving forward, especially after a tough 0-2-0 start, combined with several players getting acclimated back to hockey form after the Pioneers football team went to the state tournament.
Over the past three games, Sampair has helped make his coach's job a little bit easier with five goals and six total points.
"He has done a great job," Lechner said. "He is on a line with Jake (Guentzel) and they have found a way to score.
"They might be considered a second line, we don't necessarily call them that, but they go out second."
Sampair now has seven goals on the year, aforementioned five in the past three games, and has now seemed to have found his groove as one of Hill-Murray's centers.
Even though he was on the receiving end of a lot of nice passes that set him up nicely for quality scoring chances, Sampair is still one of the Pioneers that can create offense on his own.
He was able to use his size to put his shoulder down, cut in on defensemen and crash the net.
At the very least, he is able to get a shot off, which often leads to a rebound among the chaos he does bring towards the net.
"A lot of times I just give him the puck and let him do all the work," Guentzel said. "There isn't a lot that i have to do, because he can just use his speed and skill to score for us."
"It's like what coach says, use your tools," Sampair added. "If you have something that can help your team, make sure you use it and don't leave the game wondering if you could have done more."
Four goals and an assist, Sampair took that coaching lesson to heart and of late, has applied them to his game, which the Pioneers benefited from against their biggest rival.
Hill-Murray John Dugas (No. 1) makes a save on White Bear Lake forward Josh Bartness (No. 40) as Zach LaValle (No. 21) and Blake Heinrich (No. 16) come to support Dugas on Thursday, Dec. 22 at Aldrich Arena. Photo by Adam Crane
With all of the tough games that fill Hill-Murray's nonconference schedule, few draw the attention as its matchup with White Bear Lake.
Packed at Aldrich Arena was Bears fans dawning orange and black and for a home game, it's the Pioneers that have to deal with a hostile crowd.
Add in the fact that White Bear Lake snapped a 14-game losing streak to Hill-Murray in dramatic fashion in the last meeting, an overtime win in the section finals last season, Bears fans were out in full force.
For the first time in his career, goalie John Dugas got a taste of the rivalry and for two periods, he was stuck near the Bears student section, having to handle the rowdiness that came with it.
"It's cool to be a part of it," Dugas said. "You get a chance to really feel what this rivalry is all about and it's a lot different than other teams we play.
"There is just something about playing White Bear Lake that makes it what it is."
If there was nerves or tension in playing the Bears, Dugas showed little as he stopped 24 shots in the Pioneers victory.
It was just another display of what Dugas has done all season for Hill-Murray as it continues to grow as a young team and having to do so with a difficult schedule.
"He has done this all year, so it wouldn't be any different for this one," Guentzel said. "All he has done is give us a chance to win in every game and tonight was no different."
Dugas did not give up any cheap goals to the Bears and deterred any chance to make a boisterous crowd get any more excited than they already were.
The two first period goals scored by the Bears were scrums in front of the net, where Dugas did find a way to make at least one stop in the sequence before ultimately having the puck go by as White Bear Lake continued to throw more bodies to the net.
Along with the traffic in net and the large crowd, Dugas said he just had to stay focused on his game and not let anything outside of his control take precedent to what he was doing in the crease.
"We always talk about keeping everything between the glass," Dugas said. "Especially in a game like this, where their crowd is right there on you. You just have to be on your game that much more and not let stuff like that distract you."
Hill-Murray forward Willie Brown (No. 18) sneaks a backhand shot in the upper-left corner to beat Bears goalie Jared Schletty in the second period of the Pioneers 7-2 win against White Bear Lake on Thursday, Dec. 22 at Aldrich Arena. Photo by Adam Crane
Charlie Sampair scored four goals and recorded an assist as Hill-Murray beat its biggest rival, White Bear Lake, 7-2 on Thursday, Dec. 22 at Aldrich Arena.
His linemate, Jake Guentzel, helped with a five-point night as well with a goal and four assists.
Sampair and Guentzel each had a hand in all five of the goals they scored.
Pioneers defenseman Blake Heinrich chipped in with three assists as well.
Hill-Murray scored the first three goals of the game, before White Bear Lake could answer back in the first period.
Andy Faust opened the scoring and eight seconds later, Sampair scored the first of his four.
Later, Guentzel made it 3-0, when he was able to find a wide-open net to shoot at as Bears goalie, Jared Schletty was trying to dive back after making an initial save.
The Bears got on the board when Mike Abrahamson was able to get his stick on the puck near the crease and knock it in.
Sampair answered with a power-play goal with 2 minutes, 30 seconds left in the first period.
With a two-man advantage, White Bear Lake cut the lead in half with just 8 seconds left in the first.
Ben Wilke was got a shot by Hill-Murray goalie, John Dugas, as he had to deal with an abundance of traffic in front of him.
In the second, Willie Brown extended Hill-Murray's lead to 5-2, when he took a drop pass from Guentzel and backhanded a shot over Schletty's right shoulder and into the top right corner.
Sampair waited for the third period, to not only get the hat trick, but tack on a fourth as well in the closing minutes.
Dugas finished the game with 24 saves for the Pioneers.
Schletty stopped 21 of the 28 shots from Hill-Murray.
Hill-Murray improves to 4-3-0 on the season and will play No. 2-ranked Minnetonka in the quarterfinals of the Schwan Cup on Moday, Dec. 26 at Ridder Arena in Minneapolis.
With the loss, White Bear Lake drops to 4-4-1 on the season.
Its next game is on Thursday, Dec. 29 at East Ridge.
1. Charlie Sampair, Hill-Murray
Sampair scored four goals and recorded and assist for the Pioneers, as it got revenge on the Bears from last season when they upset Hill-Murray in the section finals. Sampair scored twice in the first and two more in the third to give him seven goals on the season.
2. Jake Guentzel, Hill-Murray
Guentzel was the other Pioneer to have a five-point game as he scored once and had four assists, three of them going to Sampair. He continues his strong start to the season in the points department by finding teammates with crisp, accurate passes, which often result in at the very least quality scoring chances.
3. John Dugas, Hill-Murray
It was another strong performance by Dugas, who made 24 saves for the Pioneers. He never had to make the spectacular save because of solid positioning and his control of rebounds to keep them away from the front of the net. He was also able to handle a rowdy Bears student section, which was in his ear for two period.