Duluth East's Wyatt Irwin leans into Andover's Brady Barthold as they chase the puck. Photo by Dave Madsen, www.facebook.com/spbdm
At first glance of No. 9-ranked Duluth East's 4-2 victory against Andover it may appear to be one of the many conventionally ones the Greyhounds have racked up over the years.
What transpired prior to is not what Duluth East has to typically do.
Starting goalie Dylan Parker was a late scratch with a sprained ankle, so senior Casen Sjerven replaced him and took on the duties of having to stop a Huskies team that Duluth East could see again in the Section 7AA playoffs.
"I was a little nervous at first, but I just had to calm down a bit," Sjerven said. "This was a big game that was pretty important for us."
Nerves may have gotten the best of Sjerven in the first period.
While on the penalty kill, Sjerven made a save on a shot from the point by the Huskies' Brady Barthhold only to see Christian Mohs put away a rebound every so nonchalantly.
Andover's Tyler Tomberlin tumbles over Duluth East goaltender Casen Sjerven. Photo by Dave Madsen, www.facebook.com/spbdm
It didn't get any better for Sjerven as he gave up another goal on a shot from the left faceoff circle by Zach Sitarz that somehow got through him and into the back of the net.
"That second one was kind of soft and he would probably tell you that," Duluth East coach Mike Randolph said. "But like what all of our players did tonight, he kept his head up and kept us in the game for the rest of the night."
"After the second goal I just told myself to calm down," Sjerven said. "When I did that I was able to settle in and get comfortable."
Sjerven needed to get comfortable quickly.
Less than a mint after Sitarz's goal the Greyhounds had to kill off a five-on-three Andover power play.
Justin Smith took a charging penalty and just 18 seconds later Alex Toscano joined him in the Duluth East penalty box for checking from behind and a 10-minute misconduct.
With some help from his defense, Sjerven turned away all the Huskies chances on their power play.
"That was a big point in the game and we all have confidence in Sjerven to get the job done," Greyhounds forward Phil Beaulieu said. "We cleared some stuff away in front of the net, but someone has to make the save first and he did."
Duluth East eventually rattled off four unanswered goals, two each in the second and third periods.
Its two-goal lead appeared to be in jeopardy in the third when Andover forward Jared McComber was tripped up in what would have been a breakaway on Sjerven.
McComber was given a penalty shot and instead of nerves filling up his thoughts, Sjerven took a swig of water and positioned himself for McComber.
"There's nothing you can do but get ready," Sjerven said.
Slowly McComber made his way down with the puck on his forehand. When he got in tight he tried to quickly flip it over Sjerven's glove, but the senior goalie gloved it down and kept the two-goal lead intact for the Greyhounds.
"It wasn't that hard of a save," Sjerven said. "I don't think it was that great of a shot and it just hit my glove and that was about it."
"That was huge," Randolph said. "Late in the game what if your lead gets cut to one? You never know what can happen in games like this. Casen came up big for us not only on the penalty shot, but the whole game."
Sjerven's counterpart in goal was Chase Perry, regarded as one of the top goalies in the state.
Perry has been known to steal games all on his own since he dawned a Huskies sweater, so going toe-to-toe with one of the elite netminders in the state was just another challenge for Sjerven.
"I thought about that going a lot," Sjerven said. "It was interesting to go up against him to see how you would compare to one of the better goalies and I am glad that I was able to settle in and play better as the game went on and help us win."
Not often will Duluth East spot a team two goals and give it a chance to open that door even further by taking successive penalties 18 seconds apart for a five-on-three power play.
Somehow the Greyhounds were able to escape the first period only down 2-0 after the first period.
"We were up by two, but had a huge chance to really extend that lead," Andover coach Mark Manney said. "You got to score in those situations, because you can't let Duluth East hang around like that."
The Greyhounds got the comeback started early in the second period when Jack Forbort's wrist shot beat Andover goalie Chase Perry.
Forbort had the puck near the right faceoff circle in the Huskies zone, saw the upper right corner open and fired a quick shot that caught a little iron and went in.
"He (Perry) is a great goalie, so I know I had to have a good shot on him," Forbort said. "I was able to get it in before he could glove it down."
"That was an important goal for us because it got us on the board," Randolph said. "I thought we played pretty good in the first, but had a few penalties to really have anything to show for it."
Meirs Moore tied the score on the power play later in the second and moore importantly for Duluth East is it finally had control and momentum for the first time.
"I started to feel a lot better about our chances once we tied the game," Randolph said. "We were done playing catch-up and could play our game."
Duluth East started to put more bodies in front of Andover's net in an attempt to take away the vision of Perry.
Similar to a boxer hitting its opponent with body shots in the early rounds, the Greyhounds scheme was setting in.
Finally in the third Hogan Davidson delivered the knockout blow for Duluth East when he planted himself in front of Perry and scored into a wide open net after Perry made an initial save on a shot from the point. Forbort followed with his second of the night on the power play when his wrist shot beat Perry, who again had to fend through bodies in front of the net.
"It was simple," Randolph said. "We just had to get more people in front of him. He is not a goalie that you are going to beat much on a clean shot.
"That is what made Jack's (Forbort) first goal that much bigger. He beat him with a great shot that doesn't happen a lot against him."
More importantly for the Greyhounds is they came out with a key victory against a Section 7AA opponent and another team that appears to be firing on all cylinders to start the season.
Duluth East has had its way with Section 7AA as the representative in the state tournament for the past four seasons.
When the Greyhounds make their rounds to take on section oppositions, they will get their best shot muuch like what happened against Andover.
Down 2-0 after the first Duluth East did not change many functions of its system that has garnered it so much success in the past.
Experience paid off and the Greyhounds found a way yet again.
"We've been in a lot of situations like this and are going to be comfortable in a lot of them," Beaulieu said. "You get excited to play in games like this and are just happy we came away with a win against a tough team from our section."
Duluth East's Jack Forbort scored twice and goalie Casen Sjerven stopped 26 shots as the Greyhounds defeated Section 7AA foe Andover 4-2 on Saturday, Dec. 22 at the Andover Community Center.
One of Sjerven's saves came on a penalty shot by Jared McComber, but he made a glove save and kept it a 4-2 score.
Christian Mohs scored first on the power play for Andover, burying a rebound on a shot by Brady Barthold in the opening period.
Just 1 minute, 33 seconds later Zach Sitarz made it 2-0 on a wrist shot from the left face-off dot that got under the arm of Greyhounds goalie Casen Sjerven.
In the second Jack Forbort got Duluth East on the board with a quick wrist shot that beat Andover goalie Chase Perry in the upper right corner.
The Greyhounds tied the score on the power play when Phil Beaulieu attempted a pass to one of his teammates, but the puck deflected towards the net and with two players in front, Perry was unable to stop the puck from going in.
Duluth East kept the momentum in the third with two more goals.
Hogan Davidson put the Greyhounds up for good when he was able to bury a shot into a wide open net as Andover goalie Chris Perry had to make an initial save from the point.
Forbort tallied his second goal on the power play, throwing the puck on net that was crowded with players in front of Perry.
Duluth East improves to 4-2-0 on the season and will face Breck in the opening round of the Gold Division of the Schwan Cup on Wednesday, Dec. 26 at Ridder Arena on the University of Minnesota campus.
Andover drops to 4-4-0 and will play Stillwater in the opening round of the Silver Division of the Schwan Cup on Wednesday, Dec. 26 at the Schwan Super Rink in Blaine.
1. Casen Sjerven, Duluth East
Having to step in for Dylan Parker in net, Sjerven made 26 saves, including a penalty shot save in the third period. After a shaky start in which he allowed two goals, Sjerven calmed down and was a rock for the Greyhounds.
2. Jack Forbort, Duluth East
When the Greyhounds needed a big goal, they looked to one of their seniors and Forbort did not disappoint. He got Duluth East on the board in the second period on a beautiful wrist shot that found the upper corner. His second came on the power play, which gave the Greyhounds an all important two-goal lead in the third period.
3. Alex Trapp, Duluth East
The Greyhounds are notorious for their offensive skills, but Trapp proved that they have a bruising side to them as well. He was the biggest hitter on the ice all night, which included a handful of checks that drew a notable reaction from the packed crowd. He did not light up the scoreboard, but did light up a few Huskies.