Boys hockey Trojans score first and last in regular season finale
WORTHINGTON — Scoring first and last Thursday night, the Worthington Trojans prevailed in their final boys’ hockey game of the regular season, defeating the Sioux Falls Flyers in front of a cheering crowd at the Worthington Ice Arena.
It was the fifth victory of the season for the Trojans (5-16) who will begin sectional playoff action Tuesday. The tournament seedings and brackets have not yet been released.
Leading 3-2 to begin the third period Thursday, Worthington’s skaters stayed aggressive, assaulting the Flyers’ goal with 11 shots in a four-minute span, giving Trojan goalie Alex Purdy a much-needed rest.
Purdy, a senior veteran, had come up big for WHS during the first two periods and became busy again during the closing minutes of the third period. But for a brief stretch, he was able to watch the action on the opposite end.
“It was kind of weird,” he said afterwards. “It was actually a bit unsettling, as I am used to a lot action on our end.”
Purdy had rejected 25 of 27 shots during the first two periods and finished the game with a total 34 saves.
“Alex made several phenomenal saves,” praised Trojans’ assistant coach Chris Huls. “A couple of them could make ESPN’s highlights. He saw some flurries early and made some key saves when we were short-handed. I’ve been coaching Alex for four years and that’s the best I’ve ever seen him play.”
But, Huls was well-pleased with the whole team, which played hard from the first face off to the final buzzer.
“The entire group played well,” he said. “I was very proud of all of them.”
Worthington’s two season-long points leaders — junior forwards Nick Newman and Andrew Johnson — continually skated up and down the rink, disrupting puck movements by the Flyers and the defensive tandem of Mitchell Schreiner and Rylan Baumhoefner both did a fine job clearing the puck, keeping it away from Purdy numerous times.
Johnson scored the game’s first goal, 5:15 into the first period, taking an assist from senior forward Kody Honius, who later scored the game-winning goal.
Johnson’s goal —his team-leading 17th of the season — was the only score of the first period, as the Flyers actually had more two shots (17-15) on goal than the Trojans did during those opening 17 minutes.
But, Worthington doubled up on shot attempts during the second period, outshooting the Flyers 20-10, including putting two in the net.
A goal by Newman early in the period (1:28) — assists from Johnson and senior Zach Heidebrink — gave the Trojans a 2-0 lead.
The Flyers countered with a pair of quick goals just a minute apart midway through the period (10:26 and 11:27), but Worthington recaptured the edge in the closing seconds when Johnson notched his second goal of the game (assists from Newman and Honius).
Holding a one-score advantage, the Trojans became even more aggressive as the final frame unfolded, beginning with a hard slap shot from the middle by sophomore Tony Lopez. Johnson, sophomore Evan Eggers, Newman and Heidebrink were among the Trojans who peppered shots at Flyers’ goalie Robert Berndt during those first four minutes.
A bit later, Honius, Johnson and Newman each fired a quick barrage of shots at Berndt, but he turned all three attempts away. After Lopez came close and Honius rifled another long slap at the net, the Trojans were leading in shots on goal by a 46-27 margin.
In the next minute, both Eggers and Newman made strong attempts, but again Berndt came through with stops.
Then at 8:02, the Flyers were able to slip the puck past Purdy and knotted the score at 3-3.
Just over two minutes later — 12 seconds after a Flyers’ penalty — Honius took a pass from Heidebrink and slapped in a short shot power play goal which turned out to be the game-winner. Johnson was also credited with an assist on the play.
The Flyers rallied with several shot attempts in the closing minutes, but Purdy responded to the challenge with some dandy saves and fine defensive plays by Lopez, Johnson, Honius and Eggers helped keep the puck from reaching the net.
For the game, the Trojans outshot the Flyers by whopping 58-35 margin, a statistic which pleased Huls.
“Usually, the other team gets more shots on goal than us,” he noted. “So, we really did a nice job of attacking their goal tonight.”
Johnson (two goals, two assists) now has 27 points (18 goals, nine assists) on the season, while Newman has 26 (11 goals, team-leading 15 assists).
“They mesh so well together,” praised Huls about Newman and Johnson. “They know each other like a sixth sense and find each other on the ice, passing the puck.”
Sioux Falls 0 2 1 — 3
Worthington 1 2 1 — 4