Former Albert Lea standouts return to home ice

Published 10:21 pm Friday, October 30, 2015

Waldorf's Ryan Veillet battles Minnesota-Duluth's Van Zelenak for the puck after a face-off Friday at Albert Lea City Arena. Zelenak is an Albert Lea graduate. — Micah Bader/Albert Lea Tribune

Waldorf’s Ryan Veillet battles Minnesota-Duluth’s Van Zelenak for the puck after a face-off Friday at Albert Lea City Arena. Zelenak is an Albert Lea graduate. — Micah Bader/Albert Lea Tribune

Waldorf tops Minnesota-Duluth, wins fifth straight game

Home had a different meaning for players from both benches as the Waldorf hockey team hosted Minnesota-Duluth.

It was a home game for the Warriors and a homecoming for two Bulldogs.

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Waldorf beat Minnesota-Duluth 7-2 Friday at Albert Lea City Arena to win its fifth straight game, and Albert Lea graduates Van Zelenak and Andrew Thompson took the ice for the Bulldogs.

“It’s cool to come back and see a lot of people that I know and play hockey in front of the same crowd again,” Zelenak said. “It’s a lot of fun, but it’s different. I hadn’t really spent much time on the opposite boards.”

Zelenak is a sophomore, and Thompson is a freshman for Minnesota-Duluth.

Both players were hockey standouts in their prep days for the Tigers. In Zelenak’s senior year, the 2013-14 season, he posted a team-high 23 goals and 36 points and was selected to play in the Ted Brill Great 8, a tournament that features the top senior skaters from each section. The same year, Thompson had 24 points and led Albert Lea with 16 assists as a junior.

As a freshman at Minnesota-Duluth, Zelenak said he didn’t try out for the Bulldogs’ club team.

“I played intramurals a little bit, but it was pretty much a year off of competitive hockey for me,” he said. “I just missed hockey, so it’s nice to be back out there.”

After Minnesota-Duluth (2-7, 1-4 Northern Collegiate Hockey League) broke the ice with a goal 68 seconds after the opening face-off, Waldorf (9-6, 3-2 NCHL) responded with five unanswered goals to produce its second-highest scoring total of the season.

“It was good to see us finish our chances and guys going hard to the net and getting rewarded for it,” said Waldorf coach Brett Shelanski.

The Warriors began the season 4-2 by sweeping North Dakota State, getting swept by Midland and sweeping Michigan Tech.

After getting swept by Midland for a second time and Wisconsin-Oshkosh, Waldorf fell to 4-6.

However, the Warriors rebounded by sweeping North Dakota State for the second time this season and No. 13 Iowa and continued with Friday’s win over Minnesota-Duluth.

“(I just told them to) stick with the plan, not get discouraged and continue to put themselves in the right situations to score,” Shelanski said.

The Warriors netted the equalizer against the Bulldogs 16:32 into the first period when Ryan Veillet found the net with assists from Spencer Johnson and Jeff Bartel.

Waldorf took its first lead with 13 seconds left in the first period on Drew Soderberg’s first of two goals. Although nine goals were scored in the game, Soderberg was the only player to score multiple times.

In the second period, Waldorf extended its lead to three with goals by Christian Weber and Soderberg.

The Warriors added three insurance goals in the third. Matt Liggett capped Waldorf’s effort by scoring with 4:56 left in regulation.

Liggett, a native of Langley, British Columbia, is one of 10 players on the Warriors roster who is not originally from the United States. Shelanski said he scouts players and utilizes coach and player recommendations when recruiting.

“It’s a little bit of everything,” he said. “Stats and email make the communication easier.”