PAYNESVILLE -- It was a dream shot -- the kind every kid practices just for fun. A flick of the wrist from a hard angle that skims over the goalie's shoulder and bangs off the crossbar into the goal.
And that's just what Willmar's Scot Gregg did at the Koronis Civic Center Tuesday night in the opening game of the River Lakes Holiday Tournament.
The senior center's goal wasn't the game-winner, but it helped the Cardinals put away Prairie Centre, 5-2.
"I came across the blue line and got in behind the defense," said Gregg. "I saw the upper-right corner was open and I took a shot. It hit the cross-pipe. We needed to score the first goal of the period."
The goal put Willmar up 4-1 at 4:26. Three minutes later, again unassisted, Gregg circled behind the goal and stuffed the puck past North Star goalie Anthony Roelike for a 5-1 lead.
Roelike turned away 32 Willmar shots. At the other end, sophomore Jon Mattison handled 22 of 24 shots on net, including several point-blank shots from the slot.
Tyler Wahl, senior wing, had a hand in each of Willmar's first three goals.
He slid a pass across the slot to Danny Swanson, who one-timed a backhand from a bad angle to tie the game 1-1 at 15:27 of the first -- a shot just as notable as Gregg's. Wahl scored, assisted by Mitch Schneider, for a 2-1 lead, and then got the puck to Josh Aslesen beside the net for a 3-1 margin.
The result avenged a 4-3 loss earlier at Sauk Centre.
"We're a different team than a month a go," said coach Reed Larson. "The effort level has come way up."
The Cardinals are focused on winning the trophy here.
"We'd be disappointed if we didn't," Gregg said.
Willmar 5, Prairie Centre 2
Prairie Centre (5-4) 1 0 1 -- 2
Willmar (2-5) 1 2 2 -- 5
FIRST PERIOD - PC: Mike Jorgensen (Dewey Sunderman) 13:05 Wil: Danny Swanson (Tyler Wahl) 15:27, shorthanded
SECOND PERIOD - Wil: Wahl (Mitch Schneider) 9:59 ... Wil: Josh Aslesen (Wahl) 9:59
THIRD PERIOD - Wil: Scot Gregg (unassisted)) 4:26 .. Wil: Gregg (unassisted) 7:03 ... PC: Dave Hillman (Tyler Graves, Pat Johnson) 15:01
Goalie saves - Prairie Centre: Anthony Roelike 11-12-9-32; Willmar: Jon Mattison 8-9-5-22
NEXT -- Willmar: Today vs. Redwood Valley at River Lakes Invite, 6 p.m.
River Lakes 7, Redwood Valley 0
No details were available at press time.