FAIRMONT - The Luverne boys hockey team continued its dominant season on Tuesday evening, using speed, depth and precision passing to breeze by Fairmont Area, 13-2, at the Martin County Arena.
"They're definitely one of the top teams in our section, probably favored to go to state this year," said Fairmont Area head coach Brady Meyer. "I have to commend my kids, though. They kept on battling right up until the end there. They didn't get cheap or anything like that, so it was good to see them working hard all the way until the end."
Luverne is now 15-0-1 on the year, a record that includes a 13-0 win over Fairmont on Dec. 10 in Luverne. While having met twice, the teams are nonconference foes.
CLEARING PASS — Fairmont Area defender Greg Claeys (21) clears the puck as Fairmont Area’s Logan Vonfeldt, along with Luverne’s Jake Aukes (left) and Jordan Dingmann (right), watch the pass during nonconference hockey action Tuesday night at Martin County Arena in Fairmont. (Photo by Leanna Becker)
On Tuesday, the visiting Cardinals pressured and peppered Fairmont goaltender Colton Cunning all game, beginning with Logan Norman's back-hander with 15:51 remaining in the first. Norman had picked up a loose puck just to Cunning's left, then pushed it past traffic and Cunning's stick to get the scoring under way.
Luverne's Jaxon Nelson, an eighth-grader, put his team up 2-0 with 14:10 to go in the first, catching a pass from Chaz Smedsrud and lifting it past Cunning as both he and Smedsrud approached from the goaltender's left. It was the first of two goals for Nelson in the period, with Smedsrud assisting again on the second, on a 2-on-1 that also attacked Cunning from his left.
Fairmont Area had several chances to keep the game close in the first. These included two near breakaways on passes that slid just wide of players skating ahead of the defense. Then, with 10:30 left, Fairmont Area's Trason Arens knocked a shot off the pipe, past Luverne netminder Connor Crabtree, who would be blessed again a few minutes later. Fairmont's Greg Claeys, approaching the left side of the net, put a shot through Crabtree's legs, but the puck squirted wide left.
Meanwhile, Luverne kept scoring. Gunnar Olson put in two goals - both unassisted - after twice stealing the puck in the Fairmont zone. Olson would go on to add another goal in the second frame, giving him the hat trick for the game.
Luverne wound up putting 17 shots on net in the first period. For the game, Cunning had 26 saves. Fairmont Area mustered 14 shots, stymied by Luverne's speed and anticipation on both sides of the puck.
Fairmont did break the ice in the second period, with the first goal of the frame, with 13:29 remaining. Rodney Engstrom blasted in a slapshot from near the blue line, beating Crabtree on his stick side. Ethan Lubenow and Joe Nordquist were credited with assists.
Fairmont got its other goal with 10:52 left in the final period. Lubenow intercepted a pass at center ice, raced up the middle, evading several defenders before flipping a pass ahead to Matt Lytle, who lifted a shot past Crabtree.
"We saw some newer kids contributing again tonight," Meyer noted. "Logan Vonfeldt had an assist tonight. As a freshman, that's great to see him helping out. ... We also saw some great passing, some scoring opportunities, too, tonight. We'll just continue working off of that."
For Luverne, 15 different players tallied points. Smedsrud, the team's scoring leader for the season (21 goals, 26 assists), had four assists, while Jackson Frankenhoff had three. Logan Norman had two goals.
With the loss, Fairmont Area falls to 1-9-0 overall. The Cardinals are 0-3 in the South Central Conference. Fairmont hosts Worthington at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Martin County Arena.
Luverne, which is 6-0 in the Southwest Conference, plays host to Willmar on Saturday.
Fairmont Area 0-1-1- 2
L - Logan Norman (Connor Huffman, Nick Nekali) 15:51.
L - Jaxon Nelson (Chaz Smedsrud) 14:10.
L - Gunnar Olson (unassisted) 12:30.
L - Connor Huffman (Logan Norman) 6:54.
L - Jaxon Nelson (Chaz Smedsrud) 3:45.
L - Gunnar Olson (unassisted) 1:07.
F - Rodney Engstrom (Ethan Lubenow, Joe Nordquist) 13:29.
L - Alex Hoven (Jackson Frankenhoff, Chaz Smedsrud) 12:11.
L - Gunnar Olson (Travis Frakes, Connor Sandbulte) 6:20.
L - Jake Aukes (Jackson Frankenhoff, Dalton Smeins) 5:35.
L - Andrew Jelken (Jackson Frankenhoff, Chaz Smedsrud) 1:12.
L - Logan Norman (Connor Sandbulte) 15:03.
F - Matt Lytle (Ethan Lubenow, Logan Vonfeldt) 10:52.
L - Andrew Verhey (unassisted) 8:49.
L - Jordan Dingmann (unassisted) 3:43.
Shots on goal: Luverne 17-14-8-39; Fairmont Area 6-6-2-14.
Saves: Colton Cunning (FA) 11-10-5-26; Connor Crabtree (L) 6-5-1-12.
Penalties: Fairmont Area 2 for 4 minutes; Luverne 4 for 11 minutes.
Luverne 5, Fairmont Area 1 - Makayla Sterrett, Carly Serie and Mariah Aukes each produced a goal and an assist to steer the hometown Cardinals to a 5-1 nonconference victory over the visiting Cardinals on Tuesday night in Luverne.
Brooke Lemon, however, staked Fairmont Area to an early 1-0 edge on the scoreboard by converting Courtney Williams' assist into the contest's first goal at the 10:31 mark of the opening period.
Sterrett, however, countered at the 8-minute mark by finding Fairmont Area's net off a double-assist from Serie and Ellen Dahl to knot the game at 1-all after one frame.
Aukes then triggered Luverne's four-goal middle segment by knocking home Madison Crabtree's assist for a shorthanded goal at the 11:46 mark.
Madisyn Dingmann then cashed in Kristen Reisdorfer's pass for a hometown goal at the 7:57 juncture before Serie and Crabtree added late goals during the final 2 minutes of the second period.
Serie traded roles with Sterrett, converting Sterrett's assist into a goal with 1:46 remaining in the second frame before Crabtree lit the lamp off a double-assist from Aukes and Briana Erickson only 40 seconds later.
Neither team scored during the third period.
Luverne goaltender Kennedy Gonnerman made 20 saves to net the win, while Fairmont Area netminder Sadie Sandersfeld turned away 33 shots on goal.
Fairmont Area (7-8) travels to Worthington on Thursday night, while Redwood Valley (15-3) hits the road to Hutchinson on Friday night.