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Park boys hockey: Offensive struggles return as Wolfpack drops third straight

Scoring 12 goals in two games at the Rochester tournament seems like ancient history for the Park boys hockey team.

In their past three games, the Wolfpack have mustered no more than two goals as they dropped three straight games through Saturday, Jan. 11. It started with a 3-2 loss to Hastings on Jan. 4, and it did not get prettier for the Wolfpack in losses to Stillwater and Forest Lake last week.

“We didn’t have much offense,” Wolfpack coach Jay Moser said.

It spoiled opportunities too. Against Forest Lake on Thursday, Jan. 9, the Wolfpack had a 2-1 lead early in the second period before the Rangers proceeded to score three unanswered goals in the period. Then, the Rangers tacked on another pair in the final period to hand the Wolfpack a 6-2 loss.

Alex Kielsa had tied the game 1-1 for the Wolfpack late in the first period on a goal assisted by Eric Stoffel at the 14:37 mark. Kielsa put the Wolfpack ahead 2-1 at the 3:33 mark in the second period. Stoffel and Pat McCarthy assisted on that goal.

Kyle Strand had 47 saves in goal for the Wolfpack with an .887 save percentage. Offensive productions sputtered for the Wolfpack with only 18 shots compared to the Rangers’ 53.

Against Stillwater on Saturday, Jan. 11, Sam Barnes had cut a 2-0 Ponies lead to 2-1 for the Wolfpack on a goal in the second period. Austin Ulik assisted on that goal at 5:29.

The Ponies regained momentum late in the second period with a goal at 11:10 for a 3-1 lead. Things continued to get away from the Wolfpack in the final period with another Ponies goal for a 4-1 lead at the 10:57 mark. The Ponies won 4-1.

Wolfpack goalie Matt Palmquist had 51 saves and a .927 save percentage in the loss. The Wolfpack defense also went 1-1 on the penalty kill, but the offense again sputtered with only 10 shots.

The Wolfpack (2-11, 0-9 Suburban East) host Mounds View (3-10, 3-6 SEC) on Thursday. Then, the Wolfpack take on East Ridge (3-8-1, 3-6 SEC) on Saturday. Both teams had the upper hand against the Wolfpack in earlier meetings this season.

“I’m going to have them focus on playing with effort,” Moser said. “My singular message is that we need to play hard.”

The rivalry with East Ridge can be a motivating factor alone for the Wolfpack. Many of the players competed with the Raptors players at youth players before East Ridge opened in 2009.

“There’s no question about it that it’s going to be an intense, physical game,” Kielsa said.

Injuries have also played role. Senior defenseman Matt Goecke was injured against Forest Lake, and senior forward Braeden Cordts has a nagging shoulder injury from the Rochester tourney.

—Matthew Davis