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Bison win battle of goaltenders

By Rob Laplante - Sports Editor - Wright County Journal, 12/27/17, 8:00PM CST


Bison sophomore forward Jake Braccini is starting to heat up.

After starting the first four games without a point, Bison sophomore forward Jake Braccini is starting to heat up.

Fresh off a five-point (3 goals, 2 assists) performance in a 15-3 drubbing last Dec. 12 at Cambridge-Isanti, Braccini followed suit by scoring the game's lone goal in a 1-0 road win last Thursday, Dec. 14 at Delano.

Scoreless after two periods, Braccini's shorthanded goal with 5:48 left in regulation proved to be his second game-winning goal in as many games.

Assisting on the play was junior forward Ryan Nelson, who leads the team with six assists and seven points through five games.

"He made a perfect tape-to-tape pass to me coming through," Braccini said. "Ryan and I were pressuring hard shorthanded, and he got the puck on the wall before two guys came onto him. He has been right on with not only his passes, but he's been playing confident, and a good leader for us so far."

Also assisting on the play was junior defenseman Cal James, who had three assists in the Bluejacket blowout win.

Outside of the Cambridge-Isanti game, Buffalo (3-3-0 overall, 2-0-0 conference) has been held to just one goal in each of the other five games.

Like most his teammates, Braccini expected some goals to be scored and some confidence lifted against a struggling Bluejacket team

"Coming into the Cambridge-Isanti game, I was ready to get on the board," Braccini said. "Getting those first few points helped my confidence, for sure. That game was good for all the guys. Everyone was gripping their sticks a little too hard before that game. It helped us loosen up and get ready to play a tough Delano squad."

The lack of offense early in the season can be attributed to a number of factors – top-ranked teams and top goaltenders being one of them.

Delano is coming off its best season in school history where they finished 26-4-1 overall and finished third in the Class A state tournament.

Despite graduating key players off last year's team, the Tigers came into last Thursday's contest ranked No. 9 in Class A and posted an impressive 3-2 win against No. 5 ranked East Grand Forks, whom they defeated in last year's third-place game in the state tournament.

Among Delano's top returning players is senior goalie Jackson Hjelle. Mix in Buffalo junior goaltender Nathan Mueller, and offense coming into the game seemed unlikely.

Mueller stopped 22 shots to record his second shutout of the season. Hjelle stopped 23 of 24 shots, and lowered his goals against average to 2.01 this season.

"Hjelle and Mueller are two of the state's best – no question, so we all kind of had an idea that the first goal was huge because of those two in net," Braccini said. "That was such an exciting game to be a part of. It was back-and-forth the whole way."


Shutout at Wayzata

Despite another solid effort in goal by Mueller, the Bison lost 4-0 on Tuesday at No. 12 Wayzata.

Mueller stopped 32 of 36 shots, but a 3-goal second period powered Wayzata to victory. Buffalo mustered only seven shots and were 0-for-5 on the power play.


Buffalo 1, Delano 0

(Thursday, Dec. 14 at Delano)

Bison0  0  0  -   0

Tigers0  0  1  -   1

First period: No scoring.

Second period: No scoring.

Third period: B -- Jake Braccini (Ryan Nelson, Cal James) 11:12, SH.

Goalies: B – Nathan Mueller (win) 22 shots, 22 saves; D – Jackson Hjelle (loss) 24 shots, 23 saves. Shots: B – 5-9-10 – 24; D – 8-8-6 – 22. Power Plays: B – 0-6; D – 0-3.


Wayzata 4, Buffalo 0

(Tuesday, Dec. 19 at Plymouth)

Bison0  0  0  -   0

Trojans0  3  1  -   4

First period: No scoring.

Second period: W -- Luc Monney (Griffin Ness, Jack Kimlinger) 8:22; W -- Tristan Nelko (Ike Taraszewski, Alex Sahli) 12:20; W -- Joel Matthews (Griffin Ness) 14:14, SH.

Third period: W -- Tommy Leisen (Tommy Bergsland, Michael North) 4:35.

Goalies: B – Nathan Mueller (loss) 36 shots, 32 saves; W – Sawyer Andersen (win) 7 shots, 7 saves. Shots: B – 2-3-2 – 7; W – 9-15-12 – 36. Power Plays: B – 0-5; W – 0-0.