Big third gives Ice Hawks win in home opener
At times during practice, Rochester Ice Hawks coach Nick Fatis is blown away by what his team's abilities.
At other times, Fatis realizes just how much improvement is needed for his team to contend for a Minnesota Junior Hockey League title.
During Saturday night's home opener at the Rochester Recreation Center, Fatis saw a little bit of everything. The Ice Hawks came out of the gates slowly, but they scored three times in the third period to pull away for a 5-1 victory over the Edina Lakers.
The Ice Hawks were unable to score in the opening period and led just 2-1 heading into the third.
"This game was a lot like how things have gone for us so far," Fatis said. "When we needed it, our skill guys stepped up and scored. In other situations, there were not at their best. But again they got the job done when it mattered. We challenged them heading into the third and they took it to heart. Then fans really were able to see what they can do in the third."
Kenny Tencza, Jake Zarzycki and Austin Rust teamed up on the Ice Hawks' top scoring line. They struggled early but took over the game late, Fatis said.
Trevor Sabo gave the Ice Hawks a 1-0 lead early in the second, with assists going to Kristian Ophus and Connor Hyde.
The Lakers came right back with a goal to tie it, but Rust scored with just 13 seconds remaining in the period to give the Ice Hawks a 2-1 lead heading into the final period. Tencza assisted on the tally.
The Ice Hawks blew the game open in the third with three goals.
Chris Williford started the scoring with a tally at the 8:07 mark. Brent Kallio and Drew Carlson had assists.
Rust netted his second tally just over 30 seconds later. He finished a pass from Tencza. Finally, Luke Richardson made it a 5-1 game with his unassisted power-play goal at the 14:37 mark.
The Ice Hawks ended up with a 38-24 edge in shots on goal, including 18-10 in the opening period.
More than 1,800 fans showed up for the home opener, and Fatis said it was nice to get his new players in front of the hometown crowd.
"After playing in a hostile environment up at Isanti, it was good to get the kids in front of 1,900 fans cheering for them here in Rochester," he said. "The guys were really energized. It's hard not to be playing in front of our home fans. That just says a lot about Rochester and what we have going here."
The Ice Hawks received an outstanding performance from goalie Corey Grummick. He stopped 23 of the 24 shots he faced.
"Goaltending was great again," Fatis said. "I talked to the goal judge about the one goal that did get by Grummick, and it was on the breakaway. It hit the 'L' of the bar on the left side, bounced across and hit the post on the other side, and then bounced back to the other side before finally settling in the net. It was one of those shots on a breakaway that you're just not going to stop. Patrick Roy doesn't make that save."
Fatis also noted the play of Richardson, a first-year forward out of Sauk Rapids-Rice.
"He stepped up and played the kind of game we all expected," Fatis said. "We felt he could really be that power forward we needed, and tonight he was that guy."
The Ice Hawks, who improved to 2-1 overall, are back in action Friday at the Edina Lakers. They return home Saturday against the league-leading Twin Cities Northern Lights.