By Jim Rueda
Free Press Sports Editor
Sometimes, when its getaway day before the holiday break, all you’re looking to do is survive. That’s exactly what the Mankato West boys hockey team did on Saturday.
The Scarlets built a 3-0 lead in the first period and then held on for a 3-1 Big Nine Conference win against Rochester Century at All Seasons Arena. West looked fairly sharp in the first period, had a sloppy second period and held its own in the third.
“It wasn’t pretty but it was a win,” West head coach Curtis Doell said. “We took some penalties in the second period that we shouldn’t have and that kind of disrupted our flow. But we came back and played better in the third.”
West got on the board first at 4:15 of the opening period, scoring a 4-on-4 goal off the stick of Galt Goettl. He picked up a rebound of a Derek Frentz shot near the left-side of the goal mouth and backhanded it in for the 1-0 lead.
Less than two minutes later, Scott McKissick took an off-paced, power-play slap shot from the right point that Century goalie Eric Rohleder got his glove on. Rohleder couldn’t control it, however, and the puck trickled in behind him for a 2-0 West lead.
West’s final goal came off the stick of freshman Tyler Jutting who took a hard slapper from the point that sailed over Rohleder’s pad but just under the crossbar for the 3-0 Mankato lead. It was the first career varsity goal for Jutting.
The game’s only other score came at 13:41 of the second while Century had a 5-on-3 advantage. Dalton Travis dropped a pass down low to Jacob Roth and slid it across the crease behind West goalie Conor Wollenzien to a waiting Hayden Ashworth. Ashworth quickly angled it into the net before Wollenzien could recover.
Jake Spiess started the first five games of the season for West but, when he struggled in the sixth game, Doell gave Wollenzien a shot. The two goalies have been alternating ever since.
“I was kind of hoping I’d get a shot,” said Wollenzien, who stopped 15 of 16 shots Saturday. “As long as you practice hard and stay focused in warm-ups it’s not that hard to stay sharp, even if you’re only playing every other game.”
The loss drops Century to 1-8 while West improves to 9-1 overall and 8-1 in the Big Nine. The Scarlets play again Thursday at the Duluth Marshall Tournament.
“We’re looking forward to that tournament,” Wollenzien said. “We’re going to see some pretty good teams up there. It will be a good test for us.”