LITCHFIELD – The past week of the season for the Delano boys hockey team has been an interesting one. There have been highs. There have been lows.
The Tigers have been playing well in their past four games but haven’t had anything to show for it. Coming into their matchup with Litchfield/Dassel-Cokato, the Tigers came in a four-game losing streak with all four losses coming by one goal. It was time to put an end to that.
With three days of practice to change somethings up, get back to their style, Delano put it all together in an impressive 7-1 win over LDC Feb. 6 to snap their rough stretch and hand LDC their first loss of the season.
“We’ve been playing well the last couple of weeks,” Tigers coach Gerrit van Bergen said. “We’ve played some good teams or had situations where the puck just doesn’t seem to want to in for us. I think our guys have been playing well, so for us to come away with a very decisive win is a reward for them.”
After a loss to Breck Tuesday night in which Delano came up short by just one goal once again, practice had a different feel for the Tigers leading up to the matchup with LDC. It gave them a chance to take a deep breath, figure things out, and get back on track.
“That’s what we were emphasizing in practice,” Delano senior captain Adam Brown said. “It was just taking a step back and looking over what we had to do in each of our spots. We all just needed to do what we could to contribute and come back and play the game we know we can.”
With Delano looking to shake things up, van Bergen preached patience to his team as they switched up their lines a bit to provide a spark.
“They’ve stayed patient,” van Bergen said. “They’ve been really listening. I think that showed in our play tonight. We did some things we’ve really been focusing on in practice. They went out and played well. We were proud to see them do that. It was so great to have three practices in a row for the first time this season. It allowed us to work on certain things. We adjusted our lines and it allowed us to get some familiarity. We hit some film and showed them some things that we think they can do to make each other better. That was the theme. Make each other better. I think you saw that today.”
The patience and changes paid off right away for the Tigers. Just two minutes into the game, Will Brown gave the Tigers the early lead with his first goal of the season on an assist from Bruce Halonen and Braeden Collings.
Although LDC answered back with a power-play goal from Grant Grochow, Delano seized the momentum back. Gunnar Paulson put Delano up 2-1 with just under five minutes left in the first period on a goal assisted by Jesse Peterson and Colin Lommel.
“That’s something we’ve been telling this group,” van Bergen said. “When they score, we can’t see it as a reason to get down. We’ve got to see it as a reason to step up. I think they felt that way tonight. It wasn’t that typical sit back for a minute or two and feel it out. We just came right back out and after them.”
With Delano back in front, it was their physical defense that took over the game the rest of the way. Although LDC scored on the power play earlier in the first, the Tigers killed off four penalties the rest of the way as they held the high-scoring Dragons to just one goal in the win.
“It’s great to regain that lead,” van Bergen said about overcoming the LDC power-play goal. “We’ve been really happy with our penalty kill, but we also knew their power play would be pretty dynamic. The way they set up their power play doesn’t fit our penalty kill ideally. The power play they run is fairly unusual in today’s game. We made a couple of little tweaks and adjustments, but we just wanted to see how they competed and adjusted themselves.”
LDC came into the game averaging more than four goals a game. The Tigers held them to one as they’ve taken a sense of pride in their defense all season long.
“Aside from a stretch in the first period, I thought we competed super hard on our end,” van Bergen said. “That’s been our identity. That’s who these guys want to be. They want to be a really good defensive team. I think we did a good job of being in lanes outnumbering on low pucks. We had some ideas of where they wanted to go with the puck. That really helped us. We knew some of their tendencies in regards to where their bodies would be. I thought our guys did a nice job of executing a slightly different defensive approach.”
Delano added two more goals (Tyler Selstad and Will Brown) in the second period to extend their lead to 4-1. In the third period, Trevor Oja kept the scoring going a minute in with a goal to put LDC away for good.
“It’s nice to come back and get a win,” Brown said. “The last couple games have been tough. We haven’t been able to put the puck in the net much so we changed a couple of things up and played with confidence this game. With everyone rolling, we can get a win like this.”
Delano had six players with two or more points in the win. Collin Lommel had three assists, while Bruce Halonen, Oja, Peterson, Colin Pettit, and Will Brown all added two points apiece.
With the monkey off their back and Delano back in the win column, Brown and the Tigers will be looking to keep things rolling after the big road win.
“Just stick to our plan,” Brown said about how they keep things rolling. “We know what our goals are. We all have common goals. Once the plan becomes a common theme for everybody, we can also stick to it and keep going.”
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