VIRGINIA — The Virginia/MI-B hockey team started a little bit slow Thursday night against longtime rival Eveleth-Gilbert.
But when the pace began to pick up, so did the play of the Blue Devils, who scored once in each period to skate past the Golden Bears, 3-0.
Junior goalie Ian Kangas recorded a shutout for Virginia, stopping all 33 shots that came his way, denying Eveleth-Gilbert any opportunity to claw their way back into the game.
The two teams split control of the puck pretty evenly throughout the first period. Things swung in favor of the Bears early on as they peppered Kangas with shots, but Virginia got into the groove of things after an E-G penalty near the five-minute mark.
The Devils had their chances on the power play, but Bears goalie Andrew Torrel fought off each shot and the E-G penalty kill kept Virginia off the scoreboard, but not for long.
Less than a minute after the end of the Virginia power play, the Devils took advantage of their first major scoring opportunity. Taking a nice looking pass from teammate Braeden Tiedeman, sophomore Ryan Manninen flew down the ice and got the open look on Torrel. Manninen’s shot made its way to the back of the net to give the Blue Devils a 1-0 lead.
That lead held into the first intermission. Kangas stopped nine shots for Virginia, while Torrel stopped eight for the Bears.
After seeing his team play at a higher level in their first two games against Proctor and Cloquet, Virginia head coach Cale Finseth knew his squad had more to give after one period of play.
“The first period, I don’t think we played well at all, and I told the guys that,” Finseth said after the game. “I knew we could play better from what I saw against Cloquet and Proctor. Maybe they were a little nervous going out there. Both teams always have those jitters in a Virginia and Eveleth game. When that happens, you start throwing pucks around and not making crisp passes and it just got sloppy.”
Coming into the second period, both teams had chances to score yet again, with the Devils going on the power play twice and the Bears earning their first opportunity with a man advantage. The heated rivalry between the two teams made way for some chippy penalties, but both teams killed off each penalty that came their way.
Past the halfway point in the second period, the Devils took advantage of their next scoring opportunity, looking to double their lead over the Bears.
Off the pass from Tiedeman and Brennan Peterson, Keegan Ruedebusch was the next Blue Devil to score, pushing one past Torrel to make it a 2-0 game in favor of the home team.
Keeping their 2-0 lead secure heading into the third period, Virginia put the game away less than seven minutes into the third with their final goal of the evening. This one game on the stick of senior Elijah Carlson who found the back of the net against Torrel. He was assisted by Manninen and Tiedeman on the play at 6:45 in the period.
Shortly after the goal, a string of three Blue Devil penalties put Eveleth-Gilbert on the power play for over five of the next eight minutes. Desperate for a goal, the Bears kept hammering away at the netminder Kangas, but he remained stalwart in his play and stopped every shot that came his way, even after Eveleth-Gilbert pulled their goalie for an extra attacker.
A 10-minute unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the Bears with less than two minutes to play dashed any hopes E-G had of finding the back of the net as the Devils came away with the 3-0 win.
Torrel finished with 22 saves for E-G, while Kangas stopped all 33 shots fired at him.
Calling him the player of the game, Finseth said the Devils are lucky to have a goalie like Kangas in the net every night.
“Ian played a heck of a game, he really did. You know what you’re going to get every night with Ian and it’s a comforting feeling. You know when you have that back there that Ian’s going to do what he does and he saves you in big games like this.”
While the energy was lacking in the first period according to Finseth, it wasn’t all smooth sailing for Virginia in the second and third.
“It definitely felt like there was some lack of energy throughout the whole night. It got better but it was still there. At the end of the day, they won the hockey game and I’m happy for them.”
Now 2-0 against Section 7A opponents and 1-0 against IRC opponents, Finseth hopes Thursday’s win will provide some momentum for his team to take into next week.
“We come back Tuesday against Cloquet. We just played them and lost 3-0, but I think we were competitive with them. They’ve got a good team and a really good first line and a solid goaltender. We want to compete with them and then on Thursday we take on another Section 7A opponent with International Falls.
“Hopefully we can continue this. We’ve set our goals for what we want to achieve this year and we’re taking steps to make sure that happens.”
EG 0 0 0 — 0
VHS 1 1 1 — 3
1, Virginia, Ryan Manninen (Braeden Tiedeman), 7:34.
2, V, Keegan Ruedebusch (Brennan Peterson, Tiedeman), 10:37.
3, V, Elijah Carlson (Manninen, Tiedeman), 6:45.
Penalties-Minutes: Eveleth-Gilbert 5-20; Virginia 4-8.
Goalie saves: Andrew Torrel, EG, 8-7-7—22; Ian Kangas, V, 9-8-16—33.