Blake defenseman Max Harrington (left) buries a second period power-play goal past a diving St. Paul Johnson goaltender Samuel Moberg during the Tuesday, Jan. 3, game. Photo by Adam Crane
After losing three straight games in the Silver Division of the Schwan Cup Hockey Tournament, Blake needed a momentum boost to get things back on course.
“We had a rough week last week in the Schwan Cup and I didn't think we played up to our potential,” Blake coach John Sturgis said. “Tonight was a good opportunity for our team to come into the new year with a fresh start and get on the right track.”
The showing in the tournament was also unpopular in the Bears’ locker room.
“It was really tough -- it was tough competition but it was also really disappointing,” Blake forward Christopher Chute said. “We really wanted to come out and show something after those three losses.”
For Blake, it was clear that change would only come by looking in the mirror.
“We decided that when we were breaking down, it was really that our team wasn't playing together,” Chute said. “We had guys playing as individuals and trying to make the big plays which works sometimes but when it comes to those 2A schools that are playing harder and more physically, we really need to move the puck faster and create those open ice opportunities.”
Defeating St. Paul Johnson 6-2 on Tuesday, Jan. 3, seemed to be just the thing the Bears needed.
“I thought we played a really solid game against a good (St. Paul) Johnson team -- they have some good players, their goaltender played very well,” Sturgis said. “I thought our kids really stepped up to the plate and played a good game.
“I liked that we were trying to be first to the puck. I liked that we were playing the body. (St. Paul Johnson) is good, they're big, they're strong and we came out and answered the bell. We played a good solid game -- we took a lot of shots and I thought our power-play played exceptionally well.”
Blake sophomore forward Spencer Naas (No. 8). Photo by Adam Crane
Scoring two points (one goal, one assist) on Blake’s top power play line was sophomore forward Spencer Naas who also added another goal and assist during even strength play.
“Spencer (Naas) is fantastic,” Sturgis said. “He's been big catalyst for us and when he's going, our team is going. You can see him; he flies out there. When he's making good decisions with the puck and firing that puck, things could work out well for him and work out well for our team.”
Blake also received strong offensive play from another impact player during the Tri-Metro Conference game.
“(Chute) has been playing very well for us,” Sturgis said. “He hasn't found the net as much as he's liked to but tonight he had a great shorthanded goal which was a big goal for our team. He's one of the hardest workers every single day and he's going to get his points. We need him to be going for our team to do well.”
With promising performances by its key players, the Bears are hoping their victory will give the boost they were looking for.
“I think it really lets us sit back and focus on trying to become a team more,” Chute said. “We've had a lot of trying to work on skills and working on systems in practices. Now that we're back on track, I think now we'll be able to focus more on trying to become a better team.”
A mentality shared by the coaching staff as well.
“I think it gives us a fresh start for the new year,” Sturgis said. “It gives us some confidence back that we can play at a very high level if we want to but we need every single guy on our team working hard and playing as a team to be successful.
“That's what we did tonight and we hope that's what we do going forward, that's the plan.”
Though his team needed to bounce back from three straight losses in the Silver Division of the Schwan Cup Hockey Tournament, there was another driving factor that fueled the four-point (two goals, two assists) performance by Blake’s Spencer Naas during the Bears’ 6-2 victory over St. Paul Johnson on Tuesday, Jan. 3.
“This last week, for me, has been tough,” Naas said. “My good friend Jack Jablonski over at Benilde (St. Margaret's) -- obviously everyone knows about (Jablonski's spinal cord injury) -- was motivation for me tonight and I wanted to play for him. I visited him last night in the hospital and that was pretty tough. Everyone had that in their mind. I played with him this fall, he's a good buddy of mine, I know him pretty well, (he’s a) great kid. Visiting him in the hospital last night, he had a smile on his face and it put stuff in perspective for me.
“I did a little tribute on my sticks for him tonight on my knob, his initials and his number (No. 13). I will look at that every time I skate from now on.”
To follow Jablonski's road to recovery and/or to make a donation, visit his CaringBridge website: www.caringbridge.org/visit/jackjablonski
After St. Paul John’s tough 6-2 loss to Blake, Governors head coach Moose Younghans took some time to speak with the MN Hockey Hub about the game, Jay Dickman and what’s next for his team.
Question: After keeping things close for the first period things seemed to slip away a little in the second period, but your team was buzzing in the third. What is your assessment of your team’s play tonight?
Answer: We were kind of disappointed. I just don't think we played our usual game -- our rink awareness wasn't very good. We've been playing pretty well as of late and I think we're a little bit disappointed.
Q: What were some of the things Blake did to make it difficult to come back in this game?
A: We had six penalties and (some of them) turned into power play goals. I think that affected us. I just think we expect to play a little better, we hold ourselves to a higher standard. We've got practice tomorrow and we'll try to rectify some of those things.
Q: What are some of those things you are going to work on in practice?
A: Rink awareness. You can kinda tell when guys are down -- early on we had two, three guys just fall down and I don't know if they slept in half the day or what happened to them. But we pride ourselves on working hard. I felt like we finished hard but we can't put ourselves in that position to get behind like that and then try to come back in the third period.
Q: When your team got on the scoreboard it didn’t come as a huge surprise that it was Jay Dickman who had the goal. Talk about his game tonight -- from his performance in the Upper Midwest High School Elite Hockey League, he seems like he is a special player.
A: He is but he's got to have a better night too. We expect a lot out of him. When he's really good is when he's plays good without the puck -- tonight he did not play well without the puck which limits his opportunities. If he gets opportunities, he's going to score.
Q: Moving forward, as we are still in early January, what does this game do for your team from here on out?
A: Hopefully it will help us with our preparation and maybe a little bit of a wake-up call. We've been really good on the road so far this year -- that's only our second road loss. Now we're 5-5-1 again, we're back to even and we're trying to get on a roll. That was our first (Tri-Metro) league game so it's really disappointing we didn't play a little better.
Blake senior goaltender Devon Johnson makes a sprawling save on a shot by St. Paul Johnson forward Gage Grace (No. 27). Johnson finished with 21 saves. Photo by Adam Crane
Spencer Naas scored twice and had two assists during Blake's 6-2 victory over St. Paul Johnson on Tuesday, Jan. 3.
Also contributing on offense for the Bears was Max Harrington and Christopher Chute who each had a goal and an assist.
Blake goaltender Devon Johnson made 21 saves to pick up his sixth victory of the season.
St. Paul Johnson received scoring from Jay Dickman and Matt Ranum as well as 26 saves from eighth grade netminder Samuel Moberg.
With the victory, Blake improves its record to 6-5-0 and will look to carry the momentum into the Friday, Jan. 6, game at 7:30 p.m. when the Bears will host Chanhassen.
Heading up-north for a pair of games, St. Paul Johnson (5-5-1) will look to improve its record above a .500 winning percentage. The Governors will face Red Lake Falls at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 5, and Lake of the Woods at 4 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 7, during their road trip.
1. Spencer Naas, Blake
The sophomore forward got off to a great start during the 2012 portion of the season by ringing in the new year with two goals and two assists. Naas was constantly buzzing around the offensive zone and was stellar on the Bears' power play.
2. Christopher Chute, Blake
Breaking a five-game goalless drought, Chute dangled his way through the St. Paul Johnson defense to score a nifty shorthanded goal in the second period. Not only did the junior forward provide a boost of momentum with the Bears' third goal of the game but the goal would prove to be the eventual game-winner. Chute also registered an assist.
3. Max Harrington, Blake
Harrington punched in a power-play goal during the second period and also assisted on Spencer Naas' first period goal. Along with the excellent offensive performance, the senior defenseman was excellent on the other side of the puck for the Bears breaking up St. Paul Johnson's already limited scoring chances.
Blake junior forward Christopher Chute (right). Photo by Adam Crane