The Pine City boys hockey team hit the road Tuesday night to take on a team highly regarded as one of the best in the state. The Dragon fans and players were treated to the opportunity to be in one of the best arenas to watch a high school sporting event, the Duluth Heritage Sports Center. Unfortunately, the final score on the ice was lopsided in favor of the Hunters even if the game itself did not reflect that. Despite Pine City playing better as the game went along and keeping it close in the second and third period, the Hunters ran away with a 5-1 victory.
Things started about as poorly as possible for Pine City as Denfeld struck first under two minutes into the game. Simon Davidson walked in to the slot and found a hole top shelf to put the Hunters on the board first. Denfeld added another one off the stick of Joe Udd on the power play nine minutes into the period and Pine City quickly found themselves down by two goals.
The Dragons started the second period much better and controlled play for much of the period, but it was Duluth Denfeld who continued to find the back of the net. With eight minutes left to go Cooper McClure netted one for the Hunters and Griffin Lehet scored a shorthanded goal just two minutes later. The Hunters headed into the third period up 4-0 and with five minutes of power play after a controversial major penalty call.
Pine City received an ideal start to the third period killing off the entire five minutes of the major penalty grabbing a goal shortly after that by Gabe Westbrook off the assist from Parker Sell and Peyton Smetana. Pine City would see several more opportunities in the third period but weren't able to capitalize and they gave up another short handed goal this time to Kade Shea as the Hunters wrapped up the 5-1 win.
Alex Laven made 33 saves on 38 shots while Denfeld's Jacob Snyder made 26 saves on 27 shots.
Head Coach Grant Nicoll said, "Between the second and third the coaches made it very clear to the boys that this game had no real playoff implications. With that said, we want to play at a playoff level. The speed of last nights game was at a playoff level. In the third we again had many chances and could only bury one puck. Denfeld found the back of the net on a botched power play as well. The game ended 5-1, but it was not a 5-1 game....."
The Dragons sit at 18-6 on the season and travel to Proctor on Thursday for the season finale.