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Hockey Roundup: Willmar boys keep it simple to beat Becker/Big Lake

Prep hockey report from west central Minnesota for Monday, Jan. 16, 2023. Willmar gets 2 goals from Cullen Gregory in 6-1 win at Civic Center; Willmar girls beat Prairie Centre 6-0

Willmar senior Trenton Larson, 4, hugs teammate Charles Swart after Swart scored a first-period goal in a non-conference game against Becker/Big Lake on Monday, Jan. 16, 2023 at the Willmar Civic Center.
Willmar senior Trenton Larson, 4, hugs teammate Charles Swart after Swart scored a first-period goal in a non-conference game against Becker/Big Lake on Monday, Jan. 16, 2023 at the Willmar Civic Center.
Joe Brown / West Central Tribune
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WILLMAR — Trying to snap a five-game losing skid, the message for the Willmar boys hockey team was to keep it simple and play simple.

“We’re not a pretty team,” said Willmar head coach Jamie Hagen. “(We want to) get pucks deep and play simple.”

The Cardinals’ simple approach paid off in a 6-1 non-conference win over Becker/Big Lake Monday at the Willmar Civic Center Arena.

“It was good to get back on the winning ways there,” said Hagen. It was Willmar’s first win since beating Redwood Valley 5-2 on Dec. 17. “It was a little sloppy at times, but a win’s a win; we’ll take it.”

Eli Van Buren led the Cardinals with a goal and two assists. Cullen Gregory put in a pair of goals. Charles Swart, Izac Duran and Ethan Stark also popped pucks in the net for Willmar.

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Willmar junior Dylan Staska takes a shot from the point during a non-conference game against Becker/Big Lake on Monday, Jan. 16, 2023 at the Willmar Civic Center.
Willmar junior Dylan Staska takes a shot from the point during a non-conference game against Becker/Big Lake on Monday, Jan. 16, 2023 at the Willmar Civic Center.
Joe Brown / West Central Tribune

In net, Braxton Heid made 20 saves on 21 shots. Since the second game of the season against Hutchinson, Heid has been the Cardinals’ lone goaltender. He’ll get some help this week with Mason Thole returning from injury.

“He’s our only goaltender right now so that’s a lot of pressure on him,” Hagen said of Heid. “Our hard-hat award went to him tonight. … We’re all happy for him.”

Willmar faces the Morris/Benson Storm at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Benson Civic Center in a battle of Section 6A teams.

“We got ‘em in overtime here (in Willmar),” Hagen said. Willmar beat Morris/Benson 4-3 on Dec. 8. “It’s a big game for us.”

Recent hockey coverage:
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The West Central Tribune sports staff chats girls basketball, wrestling, girls hockey and boys basketball

Boys Hockey

Willmar 6, Becker/Big Lake 1

Becker/BL (6-8-0) 0     1     0 — 1
Willmar (5-7-0) 2     2     2 — 6
FIRST PERIOD –  (1) W: Charles Swart (Jordan Gorans, Trenton Larson), 7:16 PP … (2) W: Izac Duran (Larson, Gorans), 12:33.
SECOND PERIOD –  (3) W: Cullen Gregory (Eli Van Buren, Dylan Staska), 0:40 … (4) B/BL: Jase Tobako (Eli Scheideman), 13:00 … (5) W: Ethan Stark (unassisted), 13:37.
THIRD PERIOD – (6) W: Van Buren (unassisted), 0:06 … (7) W: Gregory (Van Buren), 16:46 EN.
GOALIE SAVES/SHOTS – Becker/BL: Declan Weber 32/37 … Willmar: Braxton Heid 20/21.

Willmar senior Samantha Poe passes the puck to teammate Lily Jorgenson to get up a goal in the third period in a non-conference game against Prairie Centre on Monday, Jan. 16, 2023 at the Willmar Civic Center.
Willmar senior Samantha Poe passes the puck to teammate Lily Jorgenson to get up a goal in the third period in a non-conference game against Prairie Centre on Monday, Jan. 16, 2023 at the Willmar Civic Center.
Joe Brown / West Central Tribune

Girls hockey

Willmar 6, Prairie Centre 0

Willmar continued its success in the new year.

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Hosting Prairie Centre, the Cardinals out-shot the Blue Devils 57-7 on the way to a victory at the Willmar Civic Center Arena.

In 2023, the Cardinals, who are ranked 18th in Class A, are 3-1-0.

At the 1-minute, 56-second mark of the first period, Willmar tacked on its first goal. Chloe Lownsbury netted a short-handed goal. Ryah Gorans got an assist on the play.

The second period saw the Cardinals’ offense explode with four goals. Lily Jorgenson, Lownsbury, Avery Olson and Gretchen Volk all put the puck in the net for Willmar.

Jorgenson added her second goal in the third period to put the game into running time. Willmar out-shot Prairie Centre 17-0 in the final period.

Halle Mortensen made seven saves for Willmar for her second shutout of the season. In 12 starts, Mortensen is 5-2-1 with a 2.08 goals against average and an .889 save percentage.

Willmar takes on Litchfield/Dassel-Cokato at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Litchfield Civic Arena.

Willmar junior Sophia Quinn, 11, skates the puck around the boards during a non-conference game against Prairie Centre on Monday, Jan. 16, 2023 at the Willmar Civic Center.
Willmar junior Sophia Quinn, 11, skates the puck around the boards during a non-conference game against Prairie Centre on Monday, Jan. 16, 2023 at the Willmar Civic Center.
Joe Brown / West Central Tribune

Prairie Centre (3-10-0) 0     0     0 — 0
Willmar (9-5-1)             1     4     1 — 6
FIRST PERIOD –  (1) W: Chloe Lownsbury (Ryah Gorans), 1:56 SH.
SECOND PERIOD –  (2) W: Lily Jorgenson (Makenna Larson), 8:16 … (3) W: Lownsbury (unassisted), 11:38 … (4) W: Avery Olson (Lauren Eilers, Larson), 14:17 … (5) W: Gretchen Volk (Quinn), 16:49.
THIRD PERIOD – (7) W: Jorgenson (Samantha Poe), 1:47.
GOALIE SAVES/SHOTS – Prairie Centre: Kennedy Lemke 51/57 … Willmar: Halle Mortensen 7/7

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Litchfield/D-C 1, Minnesota River 1, OT

Litchfield/Dassel-Cokato and Minnesota River played to a tie at the Le Sueur Arena.

The Dragons are ranked 16th in Class A. Minnesota River is a co-op of St. Peter, Cleveland, Belle Plaine, Le Sueur-Henderson and Tri-City United.

Litchfield/D-C’s goal came from Grace Braaten in the second period. Camryn Iverson had an assist on the play. In net, Kira Kuechle made 39 saves.

Litchfield/D-C plays host to Willmar at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Litchfield Civic Arena.

Litchfield/D-C (8-7-2) 0     1     0     0 — 1
Minnesota River (8-6-3) 0     0     1     0 — 1
FIRST PERIOD –  No goals scored.
SECOND PERIOD –  (1) LDC: Grace Braaten (Camryn Iverson), 7:37.
THIRD PERIOD – (2) MR: Makenna Andresen (Adrianna Bixby), 14:49 PP.
OVERTIME – No goals scored. 
GOALIE SAVES/SHOTS – Litchfield/D-C: Kira Kuechle 39/40 … Minnesota River: Annika Magelee 17/18.

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