WORTHINGTON -- Scoring two goals in the final three minutes and 16 seconds of the third period, the Windom Area Eagles forced overtime, then defeated the host Worthington Trojans boys hockey team Friday with a shot at the 4:24 mark by Wyatt Haugen.
Windom’s 4-3 victory shocked the Trojans. It sent the Eagles soaring.
“My teammate, Brady Espenson, he passed it right to me on the hash marks. And I shot. I one-timed it on the blocker side and it went in,” Haugen said.
It was a hard, well-fought game. Worthington overcame a 1-0 deficit with a pair of goals by junior forward Konner Honius, his third and fourth goals already in just two games. A third-period goal by teammate Blake Ahrenstorff gave Worthington a 3-1 lead with 10:31 yet to play. It looked like the Trojans would hold on for their second win in as many outings, but the hard-charging Eagles (2-1) scored with 3:16 to play on an Espenson goal, then tied it on a Sonny Heil goal with 1:55 to go.
If most fans thought the game was all but over, they weren’t alone.
“So did I,” Haugen admitted. “It was a battle all the way.”
Both teams played hard. But the Eagles may have had just a little more juice in the OT period. They certainly applied pressure over the last four minutes of the third period, refusing to accept defeat.
“We were playing well. We were playing the way we wanted to, from behind their goal. But we weren’t finding the success,” recalled Windom Area head coach Travis Janssen.
That was partially due to another strong goal-keeping effort by Trojan senior Preston Thavixay, who made 38 saves in all -- including a few point-blank shots when the Eagles went on breakaways.
But Janssen said his team was determined to keep fighting. In working to cut the deficit, he told his players to work diligently at finding the open teammate to pass the puck to. It also may have helped, he said, that their energy level stayed up.
“When they’re only playing 10 guys in the game, and we’re playing 13 or 15 guys, that really helps,” he said. “We had the gas at the end and maybe they were a little tired. And we were able to capitalize.”
Actually, the Trojans have three lines to play. But head coach Tyler Nienkerk said they do rely on their first two lines mostly. He agreed that Windom Area seemed to have “more in the tank” near the end.
Overall, said Nienkerk, the WHS boys probably left a little out on the ice.
“It probably shows a little bit of our inexperience in the de(fense). They’re just standing around and not looking to see who was open, seeing who they should be on,” he explained.
But there were many good moments, too.
“I thought the kids did a good job of re-setting. … Just a few mistakes in the front of the net, and it cost us,” Nienkerk said.
Espenson broke open a scoreless game with 3:39 left in the first period, squeezing the puck through a small crease on the left net post. But Honius evened the score at 1:35 with an assist from Andrew Benson.
Only 18.3 seconds remained in the second period when Honius scored again with a short flip three feet in front of the Windom Area net. Sammy Farra and Benson were credited with assists.
A power play goal from Ahrenstorff, with an assist from Blake Luinenburg, put Worthington firmly in front before the Eagles roared back.