WHS hockey team opens season with win
Trojans get pair of goals each from three different players in 7-4 home victory over Fairmont
WORTHINGTON — A fast start and a pivotal five minutes over the course of the second and third period Tuesday night helped get the Worthington High School boys hockey team’s season going with a win.
The Trojans grabbed a 3-0 cushion before the first period was out and later killed off a five-minute Fairmont power play — fighting back a two-man disadvantage during two of those minutes — in taking a 7-4 victory over the visiting Cardinals at the Worthington Ice Arena.
While WHS coach Tyler Nienkerk was pleased to have his team earn a win in its 2021 debut, he still sees some room for improvement.
“That’s the way you want to start a season,” Nienkerk said Wednesday morning. “Honestly, though, I think we have a lot more in us. The kids played hard … but we had little lulls at times, and Preston (goalie Thavixay) played pretty well to keep us going when Fairmont came after us.”
It was the Trojans who came after Fairmont in the game’s opening minutes.
On the third Worthington shot of the game, junior Blake Ahrenstorff blasted the puck from the left circle past Cardinals goalie Rachel O’Conner for a quick 1-0 edge at the 7:24 mark. Then, a little less than three minutes later, junior Blake Luinenburg tallied a second unassisted WHS goal, drilling a shot past O’Conner from the right circle.
“Both of those kids have really strong shots,” Nienkerk said of Ahrenstorff and Luinenburg, “They just found spots and ripped shots on net, and it worked out well.”
Luinenburg’s goal came at 10:25 of the first period and on the fourth Trojan shot of the stanza. WHS wasn’t yet done, however, as junior Konner Honius stole a puck in the defensive zone and skated in on a breakaway to beat O’Conner and get his team’s third score at 14:49.
“It starts with hard work and Konner just works hard all the time,” Nienkierk said. “He created that goal.”
Worthington’s 3-0 cushion at the first intermission came despite being outshot, 12-8. The second period began with the Trojans working hard to erase that shot differential, but the visiting Cardinals held their ground.
“We had some really good chances,” Nienkerk admitted.
Still, WHS kept at it, and that perseverance paid off at 6:38 when Ahrenstorff stuffed in a shot up close to give the Trojans a 4-0 lead. That score didn’t last long, as Fairmont got on the board at 6:59 with a shorthanded goal by Hudson Artz — assisted by Eli Anderson — that eluded an out-of-position Thavixay.
With 1:15 remaining in the second period, the Trojans were flagged with a five-minute penalty for charging, giving the Cardinals a power play. Then, in the opening moments of the third period, a two-minute minor penalty gave Worthington’s guests a two-man advantage.
“It was an unfortunate hit and certainly not intentional,” Nienkerk said. “The team stepped up then and killed that off, and that was a big momentum booster for us.”
Fairmont did get six shots on goal during the first 3:45 of the third, but Thavixay and the WHS defense held tough.
“We’ve got a little youth on the team and a little inexperience, but Preston held us in it so it never got too bad,” Nienkerk said.
Not long after the Trojans had extinguished Fairmont’s power-play opportunity, WHS made it a 5-1 game when Luinenburg scored in front of the net on assists from Nick Schneider and Alex Langerud. Thirty-seconds later, freshman Dawson Duangpai picked up a goal on a feed from Andrew Benson to make it 6-1.
The Cardinals answered with a pair of goals that came a mere 28 seconds apart to cut the Trojan lead to 6-3, but Honius slid a puck past O’Conner at 11:40 to get WHS back ahead by four goals. Fairmont tacked on a final goal with just 6.8 seconds left in the game.
Thavixay came up with a total of 38 saves on the night as Fairmont outshot Worthington, 42-36.
The Trojans will be back on their home ice Friday evening when they host Windom Area.