Orono senior Thomas Walker turns the play back towards the offensive zone against East Grand Forks at Orono Arena. Walker had two goals and an assist as the Spartans defeated the Green Wave 5-3 Saturday evening. Photo by Jeff Lawler, SportsEngine
For Orono senior captain Thomas Walker, it took him all of 29 seconds to make his mark on the 2017-18 season.
With East Grand Forks junior goalie Tucker Brown down and unable to gather the puck, Walker buried his shot into the open net, giving the Spartans an early lead.
Walker and other Orono seniors loomed large Friday as the Spartans got off to a strong start with a 5-3 win against East Grand Forks.
For any team, the season opener is a game players are easily hyped up for. The game had extra importance as Orono (1-0) and the Green Wave (0-1) were ranked No. 3 and No. 4, respectively, in the preseason Class 1A coaches’ poll.
“We were really excited to get to this one,” Walker said. “We’ve been playing together forever and know this is our last season all together. We didn’t even want to take the day off yesterday.”
The eagerness to play could be seen early and often on Friday. After the Spartans weathered a plethora of shots from East Grand Forks, Walker found the net once again to put his team ahead 2-0.
Before the announcement of Walker’s goal had been completed, Orono scored tallied another goal when senior forward Jack Suchy scored on a breakaway. However, the Green Wave countered less than a minute later.
For the Spartans, their best opportunities came when they were able to outskate East Grand Forks and use their speed to get strong opportunities. But while Orono’s skating looked strong on Friday, Walker and the Spartans weren’t completely satisfied.
“I think a lot of our guys had a lot to eat yesterday because we looked a little sluggish,” Walker said. “Once we got the rust off, we had that speed going.”
The Green Wave’s best chances came on sustained possessions. This sort of effort left East Grand Forks coach Scott Koberinski pleased with his team despite giving up five goals to the Spartans.
“I think at the beginning we were a little overexcited,” Koberinski said. “We started with some adversity, but we battled and went on to play fairly well.”
Coming into the season, both of these teams are facing some lofty expectations. The Green Wave are coming off a trip to the Class 1A state tournament.
Orono, meanwhile, didn’t win a postseason game a season ago, but has a strong returning core and is considered to be in the mix for the state championship.
As Koberinski admitted after the game, this sort of contest to start is a bit of a challenge but one that East Grand Forks welcomes.
“When Delano and Orono wanted us on the schedule, we wanted them too,” Koberinski said. “These are two really good programs. We want to play the hardest competition possible. It gives us a chance to get better and measure ourselves against some of the state’s best.”
The Spartans might not have a lot of experience being in the conversation as one of the state’s best. However, they showed themselves up to the challenge and came out of the locker room with plenty of smiles.
“It was great to start at home and give our student section something to cheer about,” Walker said. “I hope we can bring that every game.”
East Grand Forks center Carter Beck awaits a faceoff against Orono Saturday. Beck had a goal in the Green Wave's 5-3 loss to the Spartans at Orono Arena. Photo by Jeff Lawler, SportsEngine
Orono’s 2017-18 season got off to a fast start as the Spartans defeated East Grand Forks 5-3 on Friday at Orono Ice Arena.
All Orono (1-0) needed was 29 seconds to get on the board as senior forward Thomas Walker hit an open net.
He tallied a second goal in the second period to give the Spartans, who are ranked No. 3 in the Class 1A coaches’ poll, a 2-0 lead. Walker added an assist on Orono’s fifth goal of the game, which came midway through the third period.
Senior forward Jack Suchy also contributed for the Spartans, scoring a pair of goals in the second period.
The No. 4-1A Green Wave struggled to keep the Spartans off the scoreboard as East Grand Forks (0-1) junior goalie Tucker Brown gave up five goals on just 20 shots.
The No. 4-1A Green Wave outshot Orono for nearly the entire game. However, Spartans senior goalie Evan Babekuhl stymied East Grand Forks, stopping 23 shots.
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