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Boys hockey: Mankato East chips away, downs WHS in non-conference meeting

Brian Korthals/Daily Globe Trojan sophomore Alan Olhousen (16) brings the puck up the ice during Saturday’s boys hockey game in Worthington.

WORTHINGTON — It wasn’t a startling effect that Mankato East really imposed on Worthington, in a boys hockey game played Saturday afternoon, but it was enough for them to rattle the homestanding club and gain a 7-1 win.

East — with the help of its physicality, depth and an unrelenting play on defense — dropped the Trojans to 4-10 on the season and showed themselves to be a much stronger team than the one Worthington previously fell to, in the first game of the year, 5-3.

“We definitely saw a different Mankato East team now than we did in the first game of the season,” Trojans coach Nate Grimmius said. “They’re well improved and have played good competition, which forces them to play better hockey.”

The Cougars have recently played games against much stronger teams than they, including Rochester Century, La Crescent, Kittson Central and their crosstown rival Minnesota West, and have clearly reaped the benefits of their schedule.

The Trojans cut the last game against East to just one goal at two different points before the Cougars sealed it in their own arena. This time around, Mankato East opened the game with three first period goals on 17 total shots to ensure this came wouldn’t be as close. The Trojans meanwhile put together six shots of their own before the first break.

Cougars junior forward Jake Peller took an assist from teammate Jalmari Kattilakoski 4:48 into the game to hand their team the intial edge and, less than two minutes later, senior Brandon Treinen scored another to open the game to 2-0 with assists credited to junior Brandon Adams and sophomore Derek Bruns.

East’s final goal of the period came 11:07 in when Treinen snuck the puck past Trojans goaltender Alex Purdy.

With a flurry of activity to constantly keep track of in the slot on the afternoon, Purdy said that made things tough on the team’s defensive confidence, as well as on his ability to see where things were at. Purdy did manage several big saves on the afternoon, having 32 stops in all by the final buzzer.

“It was really tough defensively today. I think at, at times we didn’t really know where the puck was. I know I didn’t,” Purdy said after the game. “They were always moving and always cycling. It makes it hard for a defensive player to know who they have. Eventually everybody gets sucked around and then they’re all alone in the slot.

“We played pretty well considering the adversity we face with having a small team,” he added. “Penalties always kill us. Compared to them, they can probably run three or four lines and we’re lucky if we can run two lines on a good day.”

While Worthington gathered itself defensively, sophomore Tony Lopez, senior Kody Honius and junior Nick Newman all put together chances in the first period, attacking offensively when they could, but East goalie Will Behsman snuffed all of those opportunities.

East scored three more goals in the second frame, offered by sophomore Jud Schulz, junior Austin Eesley senior and Nick Courier.

Lopez’ goal for the Trojans came off an assist from sophomore defenseman Alan Olhousen 7:38 into the third period, before East’s seventh and final score, which came to Eesley 15:04 into the third.

“When we did get out of the zone, we had some good offensive pressure on a few shifts,” Grimmius said. “They could have easily gone our way and it it was definitely a closer game than the scoreboard showed, I think.”

Worthington will try and regroup, following four straight losses. In two of them, the Trojans were right on the cusp of winning. The Sioux Falls Flyers come to Worthington Thursday night.

“Sioux Falls is another decent team. They’re going to come again with a good team,” Grimmius said. “We’ll have to clean up a few things in practice and get things back on the right path.”