Mankato West came to town Tuesday and topped the Minnesota River boys hockey team 5-2 in the season opener.
While the young Bulldogs were finding their sea legs, the bright spot was they improved as the game went along, said head coach Shea Roehrkasse.
“You could tell it was the first game of the year, and there were some rough spots on both ends. We had some guys playing positions that they haven’t played since bantams or even before that, so there’s a learning curve, but we got better each period.”
West had the first three shots on goal, but the first shot for the Bulldogs, by junior forward Tyce Shook from right drop zone, found a slot into the net. Unassisted and at 3:11 into the game, it was the first goal by the junior.
But outgunning the Bulldogs 19-1, the Scarlets scored twice in the second period to take the lead,
“We were just kind of throwing the puck, which led to the easy turnovers for them to keep the puck in that zone,” Roehrkasse said.
With 10:48 left in the third frame, after a Scarlet hooked Shook’s leg, the three Bulldog captains teamed up for a goal as Brock Olson—assisted by Shawn Lehtinen and Charlie Weick—scored on the game’s only power play for a 2-2 tie.
But it was all West after that with scores coming at 4:04, 3:19 and 1:22, the last into an open net.
“We had some good buzz in the third period,” Roehrkasse said. “We just ran out of gas and fell a little short.”
Minnesota River’s junior goalie Logan Moe fought off 39 West shots.
“I thought Logan played a heck of a game,” Roehrkasse said. “He kept us in it, especially in that first period.”
The Bulldogs placed 18 shots on the goal, compared to 44 by West.
“We’re going to be a team that has to grind it out a little bit,” Roehrkasse said. “At the start of every year you have to find your identity. We lost a lot from last year, and so it’s finding who is going to step up and fill some of those roles, who are going to be the guys you can lean on. We’re still finding that, but it’s November, so we’ve got time.”
The Bulldogs return to action on Friday and Saturday at the Simley (Inver Grove Heights) tournament.