The Spartans made their trip to Duluth December 5th-6th, to play two highly ranked teams: Hermantown & Duluth Marshall. The trip proved to be a tough battle against two state powerhouse teams. Orono lost to the # 2 ranked Hermantown 7-2 and #3 ranked Duluth Marshall 4-1. The Spartans made a strong push against Duluth Marshall staying within 2 goals going into the third period, but ultimately penalties and injuries gave way to another goal and the Spartans fell 4-1 to the Hilltoppers. The Spartans knew it was going to be a tough run playing those teams and Senior Alex Sellers knew it too. Prior to heading up to Duluth Alex was asked what he thought about playing Hermantown and Duluth Marshall, “Hermantown is going to be a really good match up and Marshall is another really physical team.” Sellers had the only goal for Orono against Duluth Marshall.
For the weekend series total, Senior goalie Jonathan Flakne took 119 shots. Despite allowing 11 goals between the games, Flakne still maintained a strong saves percentage of .908! The Spartans had some unfortunate injuries to some of their key players on the Duluth swing, namely Senior Captain Joey Luedtke.
Orono had their home opener against the Blake Bears on Thursday, December 11th. The Spartans were down several players due to injury and illness, but managed to keep Blake on their heals. Blake scored first midway through the first period, but the Spartans fought hard to keep it a 1-goal game going into the Second period. The Spartans battled during the second period. A transitional breakdown led to Blake popping their second goal and what ultimately would prove to be the game winner. The third period was a battle with many quality scoring chances on both sides. Flakne was able to keep the puck out of the net during the entire third period and give his team an opportunity to rally late. With less than 30 seconds left, Junior David McCuskey buried a beauty past the Blake goaltender, bringing the Spartans within 1. With 20 seconds left, Head Coach Kasey Yoder pulled his Senior net-minder to gain an additional skater. Senior Will LeNeave had the strongest look, but his shot went wide and rang off the post. Despite a valiant last-ditch effort by the Spartans, the Bears came away with the narrow win, 2-1.
The Spartans were due to play St. Cloud Cathedral on Saturday, December 13th, but due to numerous players out with the flu, the game has been rescheduled for January 19th. The Spartans next game is against Chanhassen Storm on Tuesday, December 16 at the Orono Ice Arena, followed by away vs. New Prague on Thursday and at home against Bloomington Kennedy on Saturday December 20th, with a 3pm puck drop. The Spartans have a tough week ahead of them leading into Christmas break. With healthy players returning, the Spartans will be back in action and champing at the bit. After a slow start out of the gate, the Spartans are in full gallop chasing their first win of the season and look to get it against Chanhassen on Tuesday night.
Senior Trip Renard controls the puck between Blake defenders while sophomores Nick Anderson and Mark Willson hold the Bears defense Photo Credit: Cindy Flakne