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Trojan boys hockey team continue playing well

On a festive Tuesday night the Worthington High boys hockey team opened its home schedule amid full bleachers and the encouraging chords of the school band. And the Trojans gave their fans something to cheer about all right.

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WORTHINGTON -- On a festive Tuesday night the Worthington High boys hockey team opened its home schedule amid full bleachers and the encouraging chords of the school band.

And the Trojans gave their fans something to cheer about all right.

Senior Konner Honius scored a pair of third-period goals as the Trojans of coach Tyler Nienkerk defeated the Fairmont Cardinals 7-3. Blake Ahrenstorff also scored two goals for WHS, while senior Alec Langerud tallied once and freshman Spenser Nickel scored for the first time in a varsity game.

Nickel’s goal broke a 3-3 tie late in the second period. Honius and Co. took it from there in the final 17-minute stanza.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” said Honius. “I think we can keep this going. We’re going to try to go out harder the next game and keep our momentum.”

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Worthington, which scored the game’s final five goals, improved to 3-1 this season. Fairmont fell to 1-4.

Ahrenstorff scored twice early on, the first on a power play and the second on an unassisted breakaway with just six seconds left in the first period. The band played the Trojan fight song and the partisan crowd at the Worthington Ice Arena was loving it.

“It’s a lot better atmosphere when you’re having some success,” said a smiling Nienkerk.

But Fairmont didn’t go away. The Cardinals struck for three straight goals in the second period. Brock Lutterman tallied twice in the first five minutes of the stanza, the second on a slick one-timer that beat Trojan goaltender Steven Adams.

Moments later the Cardinals took the lead when Hartly Aust redirected Mathew Cone’s blast from near the blue line.

“It was just a little setback,” Honius said. “We just stuck to our rhythm, put on the pressure and fell back to our practice (habits) and everything we’ve worked for. Then we went out there and played our game.”

The Trojans got the equalizer from Langerud, the superb WHS all-around athlete, at 10:17 of the second. Then Nickel put the Trojans ahead to stay with an unassisted goal with just 31 seconds left in the period.

“It was not our best second period by any stretch,” Nienkerk said. “But we talked about regrouping and mentally re-setting, and we came back in the third period and played well.”

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Honius struck at 3:26 of the third, assisted by Andrew Benson, to make it 5-3 Trojans. Then 23 seconds later Blake Luinenburg scored an unassisted goal. Later in the third period Honius scored again on a backhanded beauty that had the Trojan cheering section on its feet.

The swift Honius is always in the middle of the offense for Worthington, which out-shot Fairmont 33-30.

“He has a lot of chances,” Nienkerk said. “That speed of his creates a lot, and he had a lot of missed opportunities tonight. He probably could have had six goals. There were a lot of good things out of him, and that first line in general.”

On a team with many solid seniors, the freshman Nickel made a fine impression.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re a ninth-grader or a 10th-grader or however young you are,” Nienkerk said. “It’s how hard you work, and he’s sure doing that.”

Adams was impressive in goal for Worthington. The senior netminder finished with 28 saves.

“Steven saved our bacon quite a few times,” Nienkerk said. “We had some lapses in both the first and second periods and he was there to save us. He played a great game.”

It was a physical game, with the two teams combining for more than a dozen penalties. Nienkerk said some of his team’s undisciplined play could have been because the Trojans wanted to do so well in their home opener.

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“There were probably some jitters, wanting to do well in front of our home crowd,” Nienkerk said. “I think we kind of got out of how we play a little bit, but at the end of the day we closed it out in the third period and we’ll be happy with that.”

The Trojans play at Luverne on Thursday and are back home Saturday afternoon at 2 to meet Morris-Benson Area.

Fairmont 0 3 0 -- 3

Worthington 2 2 3 -- 7

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