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Pine City clinches the Two Rivers Conference by defeating St. Paul Highland Park 3-1

By Kassondra Burtis, SportsEngine, 02/03/17, 7:00AM CST


Jonah Bergstrom netted twice after TJ Roth opened the scoring for the Dragons.

T.J. Roth (14) and Jonah Bergstrom combined for all three goals in Pine City's 3-1 win over St. Paul Highland Park. Photo by Trevor Squire, SportsEngine

It’s a special thing to have a player on your team who is ranked in the top ten in the entire state in any given statistic category. Pine City Area has three.

Jonah Bergstrom, ranked in ninth goals (33), fourth in assists (32), and sixth points (65), scored the first two goals for the Dragons (16-7, 9-1) Friday night in the 3-1 win. “He just knows how to score,” head coach Grant Nicoll said. “His goal tonight, he picked the pocket of their top defenseman, who’s a heck of a hockey player, and walked in on a really good goalie and hit his spot.”

Bergstrom averages nearly three points per game. “He’s always in the right spot at the right time,” Nicoll said. “His body position and stick work are wonderful, and that’s where he gets a lot of his points from.”

Brendan Westbrook is sixth in state in goals (31), tied for fourth in points (64) and is tied for sixth with teammate Jake Lindblom with 33 assists. His biggest strength, according to Nicoll, is his speed.

When Nicoll decided to break up the up-tempo practices with a skills competition this past Monday. They replicated an NHL skills competition, including fastest skater, accuracy shooting, stick handling, and relays. Westbrook easily won the fastest skater.

“He blew everyone out of the water,” Nicoll said. “In one lap around the rink, he beat everyone by a full second.”

Bergstrom said the team enjoyed the skills practice. “The previous week we had three games, so it was nice to have a loose practice for once,” Bergstrom said. “I liked the accuracy shooting. But Westbrook whooped everyone in speed, and Lindblom is quick on the hands.”

Lindblom, who assisted on Pine City’s final goal on Friday, is tied with Westbrook for sixth in the state in assists (33). “Lindblom’s got it all,” Nicoll said. “He hit the weights pretty hard in the offseason, put on a lot of muscle, and it shows. He’s winning battles this year that he didn’t last year in front of and behind the net.”

Bergstrom says that playing with two other ranked players helps keep all of them at the top of their game. “We’re always talking and chirping each other and whenever one of us messes up in practice, we all hear it,” Bergstrom said. “It just gets us better and keeps us going the entire year.”

The three have been playing together since they were about six years old, and Nicoll said that’s why they play so well together now. “They always know where each other are at all times,” Nicoll said. “They are just downright fun to watch.”

Having three ranked players doesn’t mean games are easy for Pine City. Friday’s game remained scoreless through the first period, with shots favoring Highland Park 15-13. In the three games they’ve played against St. Paul Highland Park (13-7, 6-2) this year, Pine City is 2-1 and has only outscored the Scots 10-8. 

“Highland Park is fast, they keep moving, they’re in your face nonstop, and their sticks are in the right position,” Nicoll said. “It was a good, high-intensity game. It was a good one to have right before playoffs, to keep that tempo up.”

Nicoll added that this game, Highland Park had a different game plan that they weren’t entirely ready for. “I’ve got to give credit to their coaching staff,” Nicoll said. “They totally flipped the script since we played them last. Everything was totally different. After the first we had to make some minor adjustments, and after those adjustments we fared pretty well.”

Pine City’s ultimate goal, of course, is to play in the state tournament at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. And what better core to have than three ranked scorers. “Westbrook, Bergstrom, and Lindblom lead by example,” Nicoll said. “If you go to Pine City on any given night, the odds of one of them being out at one of our outdoor rinks are pretty good. They’re out playing on the rinks, helping guys, and driving to opponents’ games just to watch becuase they have that love of hockey.”

Billy Wengler (7) delivers a check along the boards on Logan Johnson (11). Photo by Trevor Squire, SportsEngine

First Report

Jonah Bergstrom scored two goals en route to a 3-1 Pine City win over St. Paul Highland Park at Highland Arena on Friday night. The win clinched the Two Rivers Conference championship for the Dragons, their second in as many seasons.

After a scoreless first period, Pine City (16-7, 9-1) got off to a quick start in the second, as TJ Roth scored just 21 seconds in. Jonah Bergstrom, who ranks in the top ten in the state in goals, assists and points, scored his first goal midway through the second period to give Pine City the 2-0 lead. Bergstrom added his second midway through the third.

Peter Dadlez scored the lone goal for St. Paul Highland Park (13-7, 6-2).

This was the third meeting of the season for the teams, with both previous games ending 4-3. The Dragons won the first meeting during a Dec. 28 holiday tournament on a game-winning power play goal by Brendan Westbrook. Westbrook is the team-leading scorer and ranks fifth in the state in scoring with 31 goals.

On Jan. 5, the Scots took the victory on a goal by team-leading scorer Gabe Nelson in overtime.

This final, high-intensity game saw 41 shots for each time and 12 total penalties.

Brendan Westbrook rips a slapshot in the third period. Photo by Trevor Squire, SportsEngine

Brendan Westbrook rips a slapshot in the third period. Photo by Trevor Squire, SportsEngine

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