Breck senior captain Nick Strom celebrates after scoring a powerplay goal in the third period of Friday night's 2-1 win at Delano. Photo by Drew Herron, SportsEngine
As perennial Class 1A titans from the west metro, Breck and Delano have indisputably made their mark on the hockey landscape over the past decade.
But this season, as they attempt to pick up where they left off and get back to where both feel they belong -- in the driver’s seat for the section title chase -- each may have to go about it a different way.
As Breck looks to move forward without its top four scorers from a season ago, and Delano turns the page on a special team that boasted 12 seniors and resulted in a state tournament berth, both are searching for new faces to fill new roles.
If that means employing different means to win games, so be it. Brawn can replace speed, if that's what it takes.
“I think both teams are missing a lot of scoring firepower from last season,” Breck coach Greg Lang said. “Now, we are looking for ways to rebuild it.”
Breck rolled out its new, if only temporary identity, in Friday night’s game at Delano. The Mustangs uncharacteristically muddied things up, but walked away with the 2-1 win.
Locked in a defensive stalemate for two periods, Breck broke through with a power-play goal in the third period as senior captain Nick Strom patiently waited for a wall of teammates to line up in front of the net before uncorking a low shot that found the back of the net with 8:06 remaining.
It lifted Breck to a lead it would keep and signaled perhaps a new way of doing things for the Mustangs. Happy to use their speed when they can and eager to get dirty when they must, these Mustangs will pay the price to occupy the slot in front of the net.
“We knew coming in that we’d have to try to find ways to score goals,” Lang said. “We made a point to create traffic in front of the net, and it paid off for us.”
Strom credited his teammates with an assist, praising the grit of the forwards for setting the table for him.
“We had a great netzone presence, three guys out front,” Strom said. “They set up the screen and all I had to do was put the puck on net.”
A timid game early, when Delano employed a neutral zone trap and a cautious breakout, the Mustangs shifted gears in the third, and things started to click. With their defensive zone coverage shored up, the Mustangs' transition swung the pressure consistently.
Strom added another goal a little more than four minutes later, and Breck was on its victory footing.
“This is the first time we played as a team, and that’s the most important thing,” Strom said afterward. “It was a true team win.”
Delano senior goaltender Jackson Hjelle stopped 14 shots in Friday night's 2-1 loss to Breck. Photo by Drew Herron, SportsEngine
Breck senior captain Nick Strom came through with a pair of third-period goals to help drive the Mustangs to a 2-1 victory at Delano Friday night.
Scoreless through the first two periods, Strom converted on the power play with a shot from the top of the point with 8:06 remaining to push Breck ahead. Strom added another goal a little more than four minutes later as the Mustangs (2-1), ranked No. 6 in the Class 1A coaches’ poll, pulled away in the third period.
With its goalie pulled for an extra attacker, Delano scored with 50 seconds remaining on a Jack Paulson wrist shot from the left circle, but that is as close as the No. 7-1A Tigers would come.
Senior goaltender Linden Olness stopped 28 shots for the Mustangs to earn the win. Delano goalie Jackson Hjelle made 14 saves.
Team captains Justin Daly (Delano) and Justin Paschke (Breck) battle for a faceoff in the first period. Photo by Drew Herron, SportsEngine
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