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Moose Lake Area boys win at North Shore

Moose Lake Area's Cody Anderson (6) celebrates his goal for the Rebels against Ely in Tuesday's consolation semifinal of the North Shore tournament in Two Harbors. Dave Harwig/

The Moose Lake Area boys hockey team won its first game of the season at the North Shore Tournament on Tuesday, defeating Ely 5-2 — and snapping a vexing nine-game losing streak that started its season.

“We played a full game,” coach Joe McConnell said. “Every period we played well and consistently. One of the things we’ve been struggling with is where we lose a handle on how we want to play.”

The Rebels built a 5-0 lead on the Timberwolves at Lake County Arena in Two Harbors before allowing two late goals. But by then the damage had been done.

Five different goal scorers — Devin Murphy, Richie Parzy, Bryceton Butkiewicz, Cody Anderson and Alex Erickson — all found the range against Ely goaltender Mark Killoran by the 5:04 mark of the third period, before Andy Krunkkala and Gage Merhar closed out the scoring for the Timberwolves.

Logan McNulty stopped 23 of 25 shots in goal for the win, but McConnell was very happy with how his team performed.

“It’s great for confidence,” he said. “It was a winnable game, and we played well and won it.”

That wasn’t always the case during the team’s losing streak to start the season, when McConnell said the team would lose its focus at critical moments.

“We lost some close games where we lost a handle on how we want to play,” he said. “We were getting frustrated and we had a chance to win Saturday (a 4-1 Two Rivers Conference loss to St. Paul Highland Park) and we got in penalty trouble. You have to earn your wins.”

The Rebels skated shorthanded seven times in that game.

“We played North Shore and we were down 5-4 after two periods and in the third we gave up four goals (in a 9-5 loss),” McConnell said. “When you play a decent team, when you give them chances, they will score. We started to run around and lose our head. We were easy to beat at that time if teams stayed patient because we’d freak out and give up goals in bunches.”

McConnell hopes Tuesday’s win will stop the slide, along with a new attitude in practice.

“It isn’t that we don’t practice hard, but we rededicated ourselves to work and lots of skating,” he said. “If we’re going to lose it won’t be because we are tired or we aren’t working hard. We want to make better decisions, and take fewer risks with a lead. We have guys like Bryceton who can score. We can get goals. We just need that defensive mentality and win 1-0 instead of 7-5. It’s a matter of learning how to win.

“The kids responded really well,” he added. “We want to play our game and this win shows the guys that it’s possible.” The Rebels will face Mora or Red Lake Falls in their final tournament game Wednesday afternoon as this edition of the Pine Journal went to press.

 Rebel girls are on a roll

Meanwhile, the Rebel girls won their sixth game in their last seven starts with a 3-1 win over Owatonna in the Schwan’s Super Cup tournament in Blaine Tuesday.

Moose Lake Area (11-5-0) got goals from Ashley Golly, Maren Mesojedic and Jessica Bird plus 19 saves from Maddy Gamst and will face St. Francis in a Red Division game Wednesday night as this edition of the Pine Journal went to press.

“I like their intensity, the level of it, and they come to each game ready to play within our systems,” coach Joe Mohelsky said. “Defensively we are playing well and Maddie has been very good between the pipes.”

A 1-0 loss to Hibbing-Chisholm snapped a five-game winning streak Dec. 22, but the team is playing well.

“We’re doing the simple things in the defensive zone and making sure we support the puck,” Mohelsky added.

“We have yet to play our best hockey,” the coach said. “We’re getting better each game and developing good teamwork. I’m pleased with where we’re at and we talked (Tuesday) about how we are going to come down the stretch. We can let up and coast in, or we can keep the foot on the pedal and keep getting better.”

The strength of the tournament field will help.

“I was hoping to get into the Blue Division, because there are good teams there like East Ridge and Eastview and we could have really pushed the girls. But there are good teams in our field and we’ll get some good games in.”