VIRGINIA — For the first two periods of Tuesday night’s game, the Hibbing/Chisholm boys’ hockey team outworked Virginia/Mountain Iron-Buhl and that proved to be the difference as the Bluejackets came away with the IRC win, 4-2.
While the Devils scored early in the third to attempt a comeback, it wasn’t quite enough with Hibbing fending off Virginia over the final minutes to earn the important Iron Range Conference win.
The Blue Devils were first to strike in the contest with Brennan Peterson scoring at the 6:50 mark in the first period. Off the pass from Scherf, Peterson fired one past ‘Jackets goalie Evan Radovich to give his squad the early lead.
Hibbing wasted little time knotting things up. Just three and a half minutes later, Hibbing’s Beau Frider grabbe the puck on a breakaway and beat Devils goalie Ian Kangas for the score.
That score held throughout the first but the momentum had shifted towards the Jackets late in the period as they outshot the Devils 8-6 thanks to their late push.
The second period was all Hibbing as the ‘Jackets came alive to score three unanswered goals in the middle of the period to take a commanding 4-1 lead.
Seven and a half minutes into the period, Hibbing grabbed their first lead of the night on a score from Conner Willard. Taking the pass from Ethan Lund and Nathan Rude, Willard’s goal was the first in an avalanche of pressure that put the ‘Jackets in the driver's seat.
Just past the 10 minute mark, a cross checking call put Virginia’s Isaac Flatley in the box, giving Hibbing a man advantage. Needing just 11 seconds of the power play, Joe Allison put the ‘Jackets up two with a goal at 10:25. He was assisted by Frider and Lund on the play.
Things continued to snowball out of control for Virginia as Hibbing added their fourth straight goal less than a minute later thanks to the play of Erick Sanborn. Off the pass from Allison, Sanborn worked his way past Kangas to give his team a massive three goal lead heading into the third period.
After two periods, the ‘Jackets were outshooting the Devils 26-11.
Virginia found some life in the third period thanks to the play of Flatley. Assisted by Scherf, Flatley fired past Radovich for the goal that cut the deficit to two.
The Devils hoped to build off that momentum with a power play starting near the four-minute mark, but they couldn’t make any progress as Hibbing successfully killed it off.
Virginia got a few more late chances but couldn’t break past Radovich late, even with an extra attacker, giving Hibbing the 4-2 win.
Coming off a 0-0 tie with Eveleth-Gilbert on Friday, Hibbing head coach Erik Rewertz said his team came ready to work Tuesday night and they definitely showed up in the first two periods.
“We came out and we outworked them I thought,” Rewertz said of the first two periods. “We got pucks deep and we played the game the way we wanted to and I think Virginia did that to us in the third. In the third they were hungrier and played more aggressive but we had that over them in the second period for sure and I think that made the difference.”
For the Blue Devils, digging yourself a 4-1 hole heading into the third is a surefire way to lose a game according to head coach Cale Finseth.
“You can’t put yourself in that position after two periods and then try to climb your way out of it,” Finseth said. “Hibbing is a good hockey team. They’ve improved a lot since the beginning of the years and I told the guys that. I don’t know what their expectations were coming into tonight but I knew it was going to be a battle and we didn’t show up for two periods. You just can’t show up in the third period against good teams so maybe it’s an eye opener for them.”
Controlling play for the majority of the first two periods, Rewertz said the ‘Jackets executed their game plan well against a solid Virginia team.
“I’m very happy with the way we played. Virginia’s got a very good team and I knew they were going to try to away the house. We wanted to move pucks from low to high, spread their defense, get pucks on net and try to get some rebounds. After playing Eveleth and not taking advantage of those opportunities, I’m happy with how we used them tonight. We got some lucky breaks as well but sometimes you get them and sometimes you don’t.”
Finseth says the coaching staff has been harping on the team all season to play a full game. Tuesday night was not the night for that to happen with Finseth saying his players shouldn’t need to be motivated to play in important IRC games.
“Hibbing definitely just had more energy than us out there tonight. They played really hard and they wanted to play. It’s a big game, Hibbing vs. Virginia. We tell these guys that you should want to play these important games, these games against Hibbing or Eveleth or Greenway. You shouldn’t have to tell them to bring the energy.”
Finseth gave credit to goalie Ian Kangas, saying the defense didn’t provide much help in the second period.
“We got outshot 18-5 in the second and we couldn’t give him a lot of help back there. We were slow in transition to the defensive zone and we were just throwing pucks. We turned pucks over and they have skilled players so it’s going to cost you when you do that.”
Hibbing hopes to capitalize on their momentum as they prepare to take on Greenway on Friday. Rewertz says another IRC win could pay dividends in the conference race this year.
“I think the IRC is wide open this year,” Rewertz said. “Every team is similar in ways and I think the teams that come out and work hard are going to be the ones on top.”
For Finseth and the Devils, they’ll also be prepping for the Raiders for a Thursday night matchup.
“We have another big game on Thursday against Greenway and we play Hibbing again later in the season. Those are the important games we need. We have to stay the course. When we get down three goals, everybody is trying to do something individually. That only makes it worse. You also have to work hard on top of that. If you’re not going to work hard on top of the systems, they’re going to beat you and that’s what happened tonight.”
HC 1 3 0 — 4
VMIB 1 0 1 — 2
1, V, Brennan Peterson (Ryan Scherf), 6:50; 2, H, Beau Frider (unassisted), 10:19.
3, H, Conner Willard (Ethan Lund, Nathan Rude), 7:34; 4, Joe Allison (Frider, Lund), PP, 10:25; 5, Erick Sanborn (Allison), 11:15.
6, V, Isaac Flatley (Scherf), 2:40.
Penalties-Minutes: Hibbing/Chisholm 3-6; Virginia/MI-B 4-8.
Goalie saves: Evan Radovich, H, 5-5-10—20; Ian Kangas, V, 7-15-9—31.