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Moose Lake Area boys win at North Shore

By Jeff Papas Pine Journal, 01/02/16, 10:00AM CST



The Moose Lake Area boys hockey team won its first game of the season at the North Shore Tournament on Tuesday, defeating Ely 5-2 — and snapping a vexing nine-game losing streak that started its season.

“We played a full game,” coach Joe McDonnell said. “Every period we played well and consistently. One of the things we’ve been struggling with is where we lose a handle on how we want to play.”

The Rebels built a 5-0 lead on the Timberwolves at Lake County Arena in Two Harbors before allowing two late goals. But by then the damage had been done.

Five different goal scorers — Devin Murphy, Richie Parzy, Bryceton Butkiewicz, Cody Anderson and Alex Erickson — all found the range against Ely goaltender Mark Killoran by the 5:04 mark of the third period, before Andy Krunkkala and Gage Merhar closed out the scoring for the Timberwolves.

Logan McNulty stopped 23 of 25 shots in goal for the win, but McDonnell was very happy with how his team performed.

“It’s great for confidence,” he said. “It was a winnable game, and we played well and won it.”

That wasn’t always the case during the team’s losing streak to start the season, when McDonnell said the team would lose its focus at critical moments.

“We lost some close games where we lost a handle on how we want to play,” he said. “We were getting frustrated and we had a chance to win Saturday (a 4-1 Two Rivers Conference loss to St. Paul Highland Park) and we got in penalty trouble. You have to earn your wins.”

The Rebels skated shorthanded seven times in that game.

“We played North Shore and we were down 5-4 after two periods and in the third we gave up four goals (in a 9-5 loss),” McDonnell said. “When you play a decent team, when you give them chances, they will score. We started to run around and lose our head. We were easy to beat at that time if teams stayed patient because we’d freak out and give up goals in bunches.”

McDonnell hopes Tuesday’s win will stop the slide, along with a new attitude in practice.

“It isn’t that we don’t practice hard, but we rededicated ourselves to work and lots of skating,” he said. “If we’re going to lose it won’t be because we are tired or we aren’t working hard. We want to make better decisions, and take fewer risks with a lead. We have guys like Bryceton who can score. We can get goals. We just need that defensive mentality and win 1-0 instead of 7-5. It’s a matter of learning how to win.

“The kids responded really well,” he added. “We want to play our game and this win shows the guys that it’s possible.” The Rebels will face Mora or Red Lake Falls in their final tournament game Wednesday afternoon as this edition of the Pine Journal went to press