Gallery: Tigers beat Golden Bears

Published 9:48 pm Friday, January 9, 2015

Matt Carlson of Albert Lea shoots the puck Friday against Eveleth-Gilbert at Albert Lea City Arena. — Micah Bader/Albert Lea Tribune

Matt Carlson of Albert Lea shoots the puck Friday against Eveleth-Gilbert at Albert Lea City Arena. — Micah Bader/Albert Lea Tribune

An evening rich with history was capped with a win for coach Roy Nystrom and the Albert Lea boys’ hockey team.

The Tigers defeated Eveleth-Gilbert 5-1 Friday at Albert Lea City Arena.

Nystrom skated for Eveleth High School before going on to play for the University of Minnesota, and Friday was his first time coaching against the Golden Bears since he started coaching at Albert Lea 42 years ago.

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“It was (special),” Nystrom said. “I haven’t played them since I was in Grand Forks. Now, we get to go up there next year.”

Albert Lea took control early. Alex Claassen lit the lamp 13 minutes into the game, and Matt Carlson added a goal with 13 seconds left in the first period to give the Tigers a 2-0 lead. Jack Pulley had an assist on both scores.

“We had the puck most of the time, and our kids made some nice transition plays in the neutral zone area and around the net,” Nystrom said. “They just did a fine job all around.”

The second period was more of the same for Albert Lea. Brady Loch scored an unassisted goal 10 minutes into the period, and Sam Chalmers added another 1:49 before the second intermission.

Eveleth-Gilbert fought back with a power-play goal in the third period. Albert Lea responded a minute later with Claassen’s second goal of the night on a pass from Dalton Flatness.

The Tigers and Golden Bears entered the game with identical records and one common opponent: Mankato East/Loyola. Albert Lea was swept by the Cougars 4-2 and 6-3. Eveleth-Gilbert crushed the Cougars 10-4.

“We had a lot of opportunities (against Mankato East/Loyola),” Nystrom said. “Hockey’s a fine game. Some days things go right for you, like tonight, but we worked hard for our goals.”

Garrett Matz was a steel curtain in the net for the Tigers with 28 saves in 29 shots on goal. His season save percentage is .914. It was his fifth game holding an opponent to one or fewer goals.

Look for the score from Saturday’s matchup between Albert Lea and Hibbing/Chisholm in Monday’s Tribune.

Next, the Tigers will play a rematch at 7:30 p.m at Rochester Mayo (10-3 overall, 6-1 Big Nine Conference). The Spartans’ loss on Dec. 3 at Albert Lea is their only conference blemish. They are at the top of the in the Big Nine standings. The Tigers are eighth.


Alumni watch from the stands

Adding to Nystrom’s history with his former high school was a group of fans in the stands. Eight former Albert Lea hockey players who graduated from 1965 to ’70 came together from multiple states to support the Tigers.

Eric Peterson, a member of the class of ’66 who lives in Portland, Texas, organized the reunion.

“I just called them up and told them we have two great games with Eveleth and Hibbing in two days, and I figured this would be a great time to go back,” Peterson said.

Another alumni member, Bob Sorensen, was part of Albert Lea’s first hockey team in 1963, said Tom Baas, a member of the ’70 graduating class.

Looking out on the ice during the first intermission, Baas mentioned facility changes and improvements were made after the group played.

“This used to be a Lea College basketball court,” he said about the hockey rink. “We played at the old barn on the Fairgrounds. They sure didn’t have any Zamboni. We used to go out with shovels.”

The group of alumni played for coaches John Gray and Les Etienne before Nystrom started in 1973. However, Nystrom said he knew them from the ice.

“I know those guys because I played old-man’s hockey with them on Sundays,” he said. “This was years and years ago, and a bunch of us used to get together and have a good time.”