WORTHINGTON -- The winning third-period goal went through the referee’s legs, then traveled another 15 feet into a small crease at the net.
Ethan Hathaway, a freshman defenseman from Minnesota River, said he didn’t even know it went through anybody’s legs.
“No, I had no idea. I just saw my teammates’ arms go up and I knew I had a goal,” testified Hathaway, whose game-winner Friday night with 1:30 elapsed in the period was his first of the season. It gave the visiting Bulldogs a 3-2 lead, and that’s where it stayed.
“I was just trying to keep it in the zone, and it went in, I guess,” Hathaway summed up.
The victory pushed Minnesota River to 6-1 on the season. Though the Trojans fought hard throughout, their ability to put pressure on the Bulldogs was sporadic, and they fell to 1-5.
“They’re a good, hard-working team,” said WHS head coach Tyler Nienkerk said of the Bulldogs afterward. “But I give our guys credit. For the first 10 minutes, they (the Bulldogs) were kind of all over us. … We weathered the storm and we came back at ‘em.”
Worthington scored the first goal of the game, at the 7:24 mark of the first period. It was put in following a flurry of action in front of the Minnesota River goal by junior forward Konner Honius. Alec Langerud had the assist.
The Bulldogs answered with 3:30 remaining in the period as Seth Reicks took a deflected shot, secured it, and finished the play. Teammates Alex Schaffer and Finn Gibson were credited with assists.
Minnesota River grabbed a lead with 5:57 to go in the second period on a left-handed shot lifted into the upper right corner of the net by Schaffer, on a power play. Gibson had the assist. But with just 5.2 seconds before the period ended, Worthington evened it on its own power play goal by Blake Ahrenstorff, who whistled it into the back of the net. Andrew Benson and Langerud shared the assist.
Following the Bulldogs’ go-ahead goal in the third, the visitors continued to apply pressure on the Trojans and rarely allowed them a chance to draw even. Worthington blanked the Dogs on a pair of power play opportunities over the final four minutes, but couldn’t get the job done offensively.
In fact, the Trojans put only two shots on goal in the entire third period. Minnesota River out-shot WHS 40-20 for the game.
Nienkerk thought that perhaps the Trojans’ fine senior goalkeeper, Preston Thavixay, might have been partially obscured by Hathaway’s game-winner.
“It went through the whole team,” he said.
Nienkerk was disappointed that his team couldn’t apply more offensive pressure on the Bulldogs, but he applauded his squad’s gritty defensive work.
“It was probably the best game of the year, the defense as a whole,” he said.
Friday’s loss was the Trojans’ fifth straight. They’ve lost two games in regulation by one goal, and a third in overtime. For their next game Tuesday, they get a rematch with Minnesota River, this time in Le Sueur.
Minnesota River 1 1 1 -- 3
Worthington 1 1 0 -- 2