Auston Crist (18) of Duluth East tries to sneak the puck past Hill-Murray's goalie, Sam Illgen, during the third period. Photo by Katherine Matthews
By LOREN NELSON
Special to the Star Tribune
Shots on goal were sparse for Hill-Murray, the No. 1-ranked team in Class 2A, on Thursday against Duluth East, a boys’ hockey team that prides itself on playing a suffocating defensive style and features a Mr. Hockey candidate in Phil Beaulieu among its stacked corps of defensemen.
No shots? No worries for the unbeaten Pioneers as they beat the No. 7 Greyhounds 6-3 at Ridder Arena in Schwan Cup Gold Division quarterfinals.
The defending tournament champions won despite registering just 17 shots on goal. Even more unlikely, Hill-Murray (8-0) scored three times on four shots in the middle period.
“Yeah, you don’t want to roll that dice for too long,” Hill-Murray coach Bill Lechner said, “because that doesn’t happen all the time. We have some top-end guys who are pretty nifty with the puck and can put it away.”
Duluth East coach Mike Randolph said the Pioneers — led by Division I recruits Mitch Slattery and Joey Anderson — don’t require six or seven scoring chances to score a goal. The ratio is more like one goal per quality chance.
“They didn’t get a lot of chances, but the chances they got were good chances,” Randolph said after his Greyhounds fell to 5-3. “And they were the type of chances where the caliber of player they have will score. They have guys who are very good around the net, very offensive-minded.”
Slattery, a senior who has committed to play at St. Cloud State and another leading Mr. Hockey candidate, scored twice in the third period for the Pioneers. Both of his goals came from the side of the goal on sharp angles. One came on a forehand, the other on a backhand. Both times he found a sliver of an opening in the upper regions of the net.
“It’s a good shot to use quick,” Slattery said about his backhand goal that capped the scoring with 2 minutes, 21 seconds left. “It’s hard for goalies to kind of read where the backhand is going.”
Dusty Krueger added a goal and an assist in the second period for the opportunistic Pioneers.
“We’ve got a lot of skilled forwards who can put the puck in the net,” Slattery said. “So more shots will lead to more goals, and that’s what we’ve got to do.”