Holy Family Catholic senior Ben Almquist, left, and Delano senior Jack Paulson each scored two goals on Saturday. Photo by Loren Nelson, legacyhockeyphotography.net
There’s no truth to the rumor that the Holy Family Catholic locker room is outfitted with a revolving door. Although, with all the players coming and going in the last several months, it isn’t a ludicrous idea.
Goalie Jared Moe and defensemen James Marooney and Peter Tabor were early departures for junior hockey. Garrett Pinoniemi (Delano), Jack Haley (Chanhassen) and Michael Spinner (Minnehaha Academy) transferred into the program from Twin Cities-area programs.
Goalie Conon Hayton played junior hockey in Colorado last season.
“And we have a lot of guys who played on our JV last year,” Holy Family Catholic coach Noel Rahn said. “It’s almost like a brand new team.”
Forward Ben Almquist, who has committed to play at Wisconsin, and defenseman Brady Ziemer (St. Cloud State) are the two most notable “glue guys” returning from last season’s Fire team that went 20-4-1 in the regular season and lost to Eden Prairie in the Class 2A, Section 2 championship.
Almquist scored two goals and Ziemer had one as the Fire dispatched of old Wright County Conference rival Delano 4-2 on Saturday afternoon at Delano Area Sports Arena.
“It’s been really nice coming back to play with the guys, and we’re having a pretty good season so far,” said Almquist, the Fire’s leading scorer with 10 goals and eight assists through eight games. “I’ve really enjoyed it.”
Holy Family Catholic (5-2-1) is ranked No. 10 in Class 2A in the state coaches' poll. Rahn has been trying different player combinations on his forward lines for much of the season, but he seems to have found some potent combinations. The Fire overwhelmed St. Michael-Albertville 8-0 on Thursday, and Rahn stuck with the same forward trios in Saturday’s win over the Tigers.
One of those combinations consists of Almquist centering Pinoniemi and Haley. Pinoniemi, who committed to play for St. Cloud State last season as a freshman at Delano, transferred to Holy Family Catholic after his family bought a house on Lake Minnetonka in Mound in the offseason. He is second on the Fire in scoring with 15 points on three goals and 12 assists.
Pinoniemi said his game meshes well with Almquist’s.
“I’m kind of a pass first guy, and he sort of likes to shoot first, so I think it works pretty well,” Pinoniemi said.
Although he was the target of some good-natured “chirping” from his former teammates, Pinoniemi emerged mostly unscathed from taunts from the fans in his first meeting against his old team.
“I didn’t start, so I don’t know what they would have done if I had,” he said.
Delano, a senior-laden team last season that averaged an astounding 6.72 goals per game, no doubt could have used the offensive wizardry of Pinoniemi in its lineup this season. But this Tigers team is built around defense, specifically the superb goaltending of Jackson Hjelle and shutdown defense of hulking 6-foo-7 defenseman Tanner Glasrud.
“As our scores reflect, we’ve been really working on our defensive game,” Delano coach Gerrit van Bergen said about the Tigers, who reached the Class 1A state tournament last season.
Delano, ranked No. 9 in Class 1A, is off to a 3-3-0 start. The Tigers are averaging 2.17 goals per game. Against the Fire on Saturday, Delano was whistled for six penalties. Holy Family Catholic scored three times on the power play.
“We’re working out the balance right now of being a physical team and keeping five guys on the ice,” van Bergen said. “We’re not finding that balance as well as we’d like, but it is part of growing, and we are really focused on growing with this group.”
Holy Family Catholic's Garrett Pinoniemi looks to make a pass as Delano's Mitchell Durst defends. Photo by Loren Nelson, legacyhockeyphotography.net
Senior Ben Almquist scored twice in the second period as Holy Family Catholic scored four unanswered goals to ease past Delano 4-2 in a clash of Wright County Conference rivals on Saturday at Delano Area Ice Arena.
Delano (3-3-0, 0-1-0), ranked ninth in the Class 1A state coaches poll, opened the scoring with 4:16 left in the first period on a goal by Jack Paulson.
Holy Family Catholic, ranked No. 10 in Class 2A state coaches’ poll, scored the next four goals, including one from John Simon to tie it at 1 heading into the second period.
Almquist scored the only goals in the second, and they came less than four minutes apart to put the Fire (5-2-1, 3-0-0) ahead 3-1 entering the third.
Holy Family Catholic’s Brady Ziemer scored on a power play to put the Fire ahead 4-1 6:18 into the third. Delano’s Paulson completed the scoring with a goal with 2:16 remaining.
Delano senior Jackson Hjelle, one of the top goaltenders in the Upper Midwest High School Elite Hockey League this fall, stopped 34 of 38 shots. Holy Family Catholic goaltender Conan Hayton made 15 saves.
Three of Holy Family Catholic’s goals came on power plays. The Fire were 3-for-6 with the man advantage. Delano went 1-for-5 on the power play.
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