If Friday’s opener is an indication of how Blaine will perform this season, Bengals hockey fans will be in for a high-flying treat.
Roseau scored 35 seconds into the season-opening contest and added two more on the power play before the first intermission. Blaine regained its composure and generated more scoring chances, outshooting the Rams 50-21 in the game as it worked back into the game to force overtime and an eventual tie.
Rams’ Dylan Mielke fired the first goal as the puck slid into perfect position off a face-off, left of the Blaine goal.
Blaine coach Dave Aus said face-offs plagued the Bengals during preseason scrimmages and was a focus of practices leading up to the opener. “We made a couple boneheaded plays [in the first period], but after that third goal they didn’t have many scoring chances and we had at least 20,.” he said.
Less than four minutes later Roseau worked the puck around on a power play from the right point to the left face-off dot for Zach Yon to rip a shot past Blaine junior goalie Bailey Ketola to make it 2-0. Aus made a point of limiting Yon’s shooting chances, but he still found open spaces in the Bengals defense.
The third goal came near the end of another power play, with 2:27 left in the first period. Yon sent a centering pass toward the Blaine goal as a teammates crashed the goal. Alex Strand found the loose puck and buried it as he crashed into the goal. The power play came after Tyler Cline was called for a charge that sent the Roseau skater into the locker room for treatment. He later returned to the game.
“We can’t ask for a better start right off the bus like that,” Roseau coach Andy Lundbohm said. “It was Blaine’s first game and I think we took advantage of that early then they tired us out. Obviously it’s a sour taste in your mouth to lose a three-goal lead.”
Rams goalie Ryan Anderson made some spectacular saves and the Bengals simply were unlucky at other times, hitting posts, crossbars, skates or missing a wide-open goal entirely. Blaine outshot the Rams in the third period 18-3 and scored twice but couldn’t find the game-winner.
Blaine’s Tyler Cline started the comeback by powering through a harsh challenge by a Roseau defenseman on a clear breakaway to score which made it 3-1, 3:03 into the second period. Teammate Joey Lau flipped a perfect pass to Cline, just outside the Rams blueline. He took the puck in stride and surged past the defense for the one-on-one challenge against the Rams netminder. No penalty was given since Cline scored.
Bengals’ Tyler Frischmon made it a 3-2 game, 4:20 into the third period as he crashed the Roseau goal after Brandon Notermann’s wrap-around attempt sailed to Nic Simpson, who tried to bang the puck home. Frischmon was in the perfect spot for the rebound and made the visitors pay.
Nearly 5:30 later, Dallas Gerads snuck between the hashmarks on the powerplay as Joey Lau hit his teammate who deflected the game-tying goal past Ryan Anderson. “Coach told me to go between the hash marks and so I did,” he said. “I knew they didn’t see me come in.”
All of the Blaine goals showcased its team speed, either to break out, find a better position on a defenseman or set up a play on a puck. That speed should help them a lot this season, according to Aus. “We’re a lot quicker [than other teams] and that’s going to help us win a lot of games,” he said. “We’re faster but we have to find a way to finish.”
Finishing chances were an issue Thursday, especially in overtime as Blaine worked hard to generate scoring chances. “We just panicked,” Aus said. “At the end [of overtime, Jesse] Norling had the puck and Cline had another where they goalie’s out of the net and they try to pull it back and it’s almost like they’re thinking too fast instead of just making the play.
“We had 50 shots and could’ve easily made it 10-3 instead of 3-3 so no I’m not disappointed. They’re goalie played really well.”
Cline said the start was rough but the way they came back as a team and not just individuals was a good sign of things to come. “They came out a little harder than we thought but we’re a fast team and we have to keep skating like that and out-work people,” he said.
Blaine goalie Bailey Ketola got the start in net and turned away 15-of-18 shots he faced, while Anderson posted 41 saves. Ketola, a left-handed junior, got the start in favor of senior James Simmer, who was benched for disciplinary reasons, according to Aus.
What’s become a season-opening tradition for both teams has blossomed into a friendly rivalry. “Our players stay with their players when we’re down here then they stay with our families [when they play in Roseau] ” said Lundbohm, who is in his fourth year as head coach of the Rams. “It’s a neat little thing that joins two communities, one from way up north and one from the cities.”