Tigers beat Cougars in opener
Published 9:52 pm Thursday, November 19, 2015
In the first game of Hall of Fame coach Roy Nystrom’s 50th season as a head coach, the Albert Lea boys’ hockey team put on a show.
Austin Dulitz and Mitchell Evans scored two goals each to lead the Tigers past Mankato East/Loyola 7-2 Thursday at Albert Lea City Arena.
Nystrom said he was pleased with his team’s intensity.
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“That’s the name of our game,” he said. “Our game is a high-energy game. Our kids work hard, and when you work hard good things happen.”
Although Bailey Marshall broke the ice for the Cougars on a power play with 10:11 left in the first period, Albert Lea responded by scoring the game’s next five goals to take a 5-1 lead into the final stanza.
The Tigers produced nine players with a point and five with multiple points.
“I think we have a lot of chemistry on the team,” said Albert Lea senior defenseman, Lucas Hacker, who assisted Foster Otten on the last goal of the game. “Everyone does their part.”
Dulitz led the Tigers with two goals — both in the first period — and an assist. Other multiple-point scorers were Evans with two goals; Jack Pulley, a goal and two assists; Bergan Lundak, a goal and an assist; and Nathan Wallace, two assists.
“We’ve got some young guys, and they really showed us tonight that they can play some hockey,” Nystrom said. “I think our forwards did a fine job.”
Of the game’s 51 minutes, the Cougars led for 1:13. Dulitz drilled the equalizer on passes from Pulley and Wallace with 8:55 left in the first period, and Evans hit the go-ahead goal with an assist from Sam Chalmers about three minutes later.
Albert Lea extended its lead to three on Dulitz’s second goal with assists from Michael Savelkoul and Lundak.
In the second period, the Tigers added a pair of short-handed goals. Pulley found the net on a pass from Dulitz with 1:20 before the second intermission, and Lundak scored unassisted with eight seconds left in the period.
Mankato East/Loyola scored with 7:41 left in regulation, but Albert Lea tacked on insurance goals from Evans and Otten to seal the win.
Ben Witham, a junior, led the Tigers in the goal. He saved 25 of 27 shot attempts. As a sophomore, Witham filled in for three-year starter and two-time Big Nine All-Conference selection Garrett Matz in one game and led Albert Lea to a 4-0 shutout win over New Ulm.
“Ben’s a good goaltender,” Nystrom said. “He made some nice saves tonight, and we made some miscues in our own end of the rink, but they couldn’t put the puck in the net.”
Last year, the Tigers scored seven or more goals twice: a 7-1 win over La Crescent in the first round of the Section 1A tournament and a 9-1 victory at Rochester Mayo, a team that went 16-8-2.
The Cougars swept Albert Lea last year by scores of 4-2 and 6-3, but the Tigers won the previous meeting on Feb. 13, 2014, 6-2.
Next, Albert Lea (1-0, 1-0 Big Nine) will host Northfield (1-0, 1-0 Big Nine) at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday. The Raiders beat Rochester Mayo 4-1 Thursday at Northfield.