FAIRMONT - Fairmont Area's boys hockey team converted three of its five power-play opportunities into goals to trigger a 5-2 South Central Conference triumph over the Waseca Bluejays on Friday night.
That's a highly-efficient percentage, especially considering the fact that the Cardinals have hardly practiced that facet of the game.
"I think we've worked on our power play twice in practice. No kidding," first-year Fairmont Area head coach Brady Meyer said with a smile. "It just came down to our guys being able to pass the puck well and maintaining their focus."
TWO-ON-ONE — Fairmont Area forward Grant Becker (middle) and teammate Brock Johnson (front) rush past Waseca defender Brett Whitehurst during South Central Conference hockey action Friday night at Martin County Arena in Fairmont. Becker went on to score a goal on the play. Photo by Leanna Becker
Fairmont Area's concentrated effort also ended the program's two season-plus conference winless streak.
"I can't remember the last time that we won a conference game, but it's been a while," said Meyer.
The Cardinals' three-goal winning decision over the Bluejays proved their first league triumph since a 6-3 win over St. Peter/Le Sueur-Henderson on Jan. 30, 2010.
Trailing 1-0 on the heels of Waseca forward Wyatt Krampitz's first-period goal, Fairmont Area reeled off a pair of power-play goals to trigger three consecutive goals during the second segment.
Defender Ben Mitchell recorded the Cardinals' initial power-play point by following the ricochet off of his initial shot and flipping the puck past Bluejay second-period goalie Austin Stroda and just inside the right pipe to knot the game at the 12:54 juncture.
Forward Joe Nordquist then needed only 18 seconds to strike again for Fairmont Area, drilling home a left-wing blast to stake the hometown lineup to a lead that it would not relinquish. Matt Lytle and Grant Becker picked up assists on Nordquist's goal.
The Bluejays went to the penalty box again with 5:30 remaining in the middle period, and Sam Havnen curled a right-wing slapshot around Stroda's shoulder to widen the Cardinals' edge to 3-1. Nordquist and Rodney Engstrom combined for the double-assist at the 4:08 mark.
"Did you hear the crowd noise during that period?" Fairmont Area assistant coaches Clint Forstrom and Joel Meyer each asked during the second intermission.
Despite a partisan fan base's loud verbal support and holding a 3-1 lead, Brady Meyer re-emphasized to his players during the break of how important it was to keep focused on the task at hand.
"Not only did we maintain our focus throughout most of the final period ... , I thought our third line really stepped up for us tonight and held their own. That was key," Meyer said in reference to first-year players Brandon Jensen and Carter Welchlin, along with Josh Abel. "The third line gave us the depth that we didn't have in our opener."
Brock Johnson then wristed home the Cardinals' third power-play goal from the left crease off a perfectly-delivered pass from defender Greg Claeys to extend the home team's lead to 4-1 at 12:51 of the third.
Krampitz netted his second goal - off a double-assist from J.P. Eykyn and Ben Johnson for a second time on the game - off Waseca's power play with 7:34 remaining in regulation.
Grant Becker, however, put the finishing touches on Fairmont Area's SCC victory by drilling home a one-timer from the point off an assist from Kalon Wilson at the 6:58 mark.
Sophomore netminder Colton Cunning recorded 29 saves to earn the victory for the Cardinals, who generated 25 shots on goal.
Fairmont Area (1-1, 1-1 SCC) plays host to Luverne at 7 p.m. Tuesday night at Martin County Arena in Fairmont.
Waseca (1-3, 0-1) plays host to St. Paul Como Park on Tuesday night.
Fmt Area 0-3-2-5
W - Wyatt Krampitz (J.P. Eykyn, Ben Johnson), 13:37.
FA - Ben Mitchell (unassisted), pp., 12:54.
FA - Joe Nordquist (Matt Lytle, Grant Becker), 12:36.
FA - Sam Havnen (Nordquist, Rodney Engstrom), pp., 4:08.
FA - Brock Johnson (Greg Claeys), pp., 12:51.
W - Krampitz (Eykyn, Johnson), pp., 7:34.
FA - Becker (Kalon Wilson), 6:58.
Saves: Colton Cunning (FA) 11-9-9-29; Zac Weichert (W) 6-x-8-14, Austin Stroda (W) x-6-x-6.
Shots on goal: Fairmont Area 6-9-10-25; Waseca 12-9-10-31.
Penalties: Fairmont Area 5 for 10 minutes; Waseca 5 for 10 minutes.
Power-play chances: Fairmont Area 3-for-5; Waseca 1-for-5.