Mound-Westonka junior Hunter Smith celebrates after scoring in overtime against Delano. Photo by Loren Nelson
There’s glamour attached with being a goal scorer, sure.
The celebrations, the gaudy point totals, the adoration from the fans. All of it makes being a sniper a plum job.
There is a downside, too.
Every goal scorer goes through rough stretches. Frustrating games in which shots are deflected at the last second, or goalies make unimaginable saves or that laser beam just misses a gaping opening in the net.
Welcome to Hunter Smith’s world.
“For some reason this year it has been crossbar and up,” Mound-Westonka coach Doug Runke said about Smith’s tough luck this season. “So it’s nice to have crossbar down in here a couple times.”
Smith, a junior who has been a varsity regular since he was a freshman and the Whitehawks’ leading scorer last season, scored twice in Mound-Westonka’s overtime 5-4 triumph over Delano on Tuesday, Jan. 15.
Mound-Westonka junior Hunter Smith sets up camp in the slot next to Delano defenseman Daniel Keranen. Photo by Loren Nelson
In the overtime period Smith took a feed from linemate Tommy Ewing and converted it into a missile shot from the slot that found the upper reaches of the net before Delano goaltender Aaron Grangroth had time to move.
“We wouldn’t have anyone else in the slot there,” Mound-Westonka senior defenseman Charlie Curti said. “I probably would have choked there, but luckily it was him. And he buried it.”
Smith had scored just six goals in 16 games entering Tuesday night, a snail’s pace compared to his sophomore season when he led the Whitehawks with 16 goals in 26 games.
By all accounts, Smith’s scoring chances have been as frequent as ever this season. Sometimes, for whatever reason, the puck just doesn’t find the back of the net. No one is immune to slumps.
“He’s been creating a lot of opportunities,” Runke said, adding it was only fitting that Smith get the overtime clincher. “He’s got that scoring touch, and he loves to go up top. I said, ‘That’s his shot.’ So it’s fitting he put that one in.”
Delano coach Steve Brown has seen plenty of Smith goals firsthand over the years. Too many for his liking.
“He shoots the puck well,” Brown said. “He’s scored a lot of goals. He’s a junior, and he scored some goals against us last year as well.
“It’s a nice shot by the kid.”
-- Loren Nelson, MN Hockey Hub editor
A soaring Mound-Westonka's Tanner Palm introduces himself to Delano goaltender Aaron Grangroth as the Tigers' Lars Halonen controls the puck. Photo by Loren Nelson
Hunter Smith scored 4 minutes, 3 seconds into overtime to give Mound-Westonka a thrilling 5-4 victory over Wright County Conference foe Delano on Tuesday, Jan. 15, at Thaler Sports Center in Mound.
Tommy Ewing and Nick Tschida assisted on Smith's winning goal, a rocket of a shot that sailed high over Delano goaltender Aaron Grangroth.
The teams exchanged scoring changes and goals throughout. There were four lead changes in all, with Mound-Westonka taking its final lead on Smith's OT goal, the second of the night and eight of the season for the junior forward.
The Whitehawks controlled play for much of the third period and overtime and fired 41 shots at Grangroth. Delano had 24 shots on Mound-Westonka goaltender Andy Seats.
Justin Oja led the Tigers with two goals. Eric Ylitalo assisted on both of the Oja goals, and Grant Prinsen also had two assists for the Tigers, who have lost three of their last four games in overtime.
Delano's next game is on Jan. 18, when it travels to the Litchfield Civic Arena to take on Litchfield/Dassel-Cokato. Mound-Westonka, which snapped a three-game losing streak, will stay at home and face St. Cloud Cathedral on Jan, 19.
-- Ben Bakker, MN Hockey Hub staff
1. Hunter Smith, Mound-Westonka
The junior sniper easily slides into the First Star spot, scoring the game winner in overtime on a gorgeous upper-shelf snipe. He also scored the Whitehawks’ first goal, tying the score at 1, midway through the first period. Smith, Mound-Westonka’s leading scorer last season, has eight goals in 17 games this season to rank third on the Whitehawks.
2. Charlie Curti, Mound-Westonka
The smooth skating defensemen flashed some slick stickhandling as he scored on one rush and almost scored again after wheeling around the Delano defense. He tacked on two assists and was rock solid defensively.
-- Loren Nelson, MN Hockey Hub editor
Mound-Westonka's Hunter Smith. Photo by Loren Nelson