The North Wright County Riverhawks entered Tuesday’s game with positive momentum, coming off a season-opening victory over Cambridge, but maybe without enough experience for the early test of Achiever Academy.
The Hawks fell into a 4-0 deficit against the talented first-year team and couldn’t complete a third-period comeback, falling 4-2 for their first loss of the year.
“I think a big part of it was it’s only our second game,” said Assistant Coach Kevin Finnerty. “It’s their sixth game. It looked like it.”
It was also a pretty drastic jump in difficulty, taking on the 4-1 Aces, after delivering a 6-0 beating to Cambridge.
“The pace of the game changed big time from our first game,” said Finnerty.
The Hawks played evenly with the visiting Aces for much of the first period, as both teams struggled to generate scoring chances.
With just over five minutes remaining in the first period, shots on goal were even at two apiece.
But aided by two power play opportunities in the waning minutes, Achiever Academy found a flurry of good opportunities. They recorded seven shots on goal and the final five minutes. But the Riverhawks, and senior goaltender Alex LaMere, held, taking a 0-0 tie into the locker room.
In the second period they wouldn’t be so fortunate.
The Aces first took advantage of a rush, scoring stick side on LaMere from the right slot. Minutes later they capitalized on a Hawks turnover at the blue line, going top shelf to make it 2-0, less than four minutes into the period.
At that point, the shots were 16-3, Aces.
The visitors would add two more goals in the period, one at even strength and one on a power play. Both came from Emily Antony, her second and third consecutive goals, earning a natural hat trick.
The Hawks ended the period trailing 4-0.
“We were trying to do everything perfect [the first two periods], and we weren’t doing things quick enough,” said senior defender Mac Johnson. “They were a fast team and I don’t think we came out prepared for that.”
The host Hawks looked like a different team in the third period.
“We brought a lot more energy,” said Johnson.” We had a little spark in us. I think we were a little mad in between periods.”
Six minutes into the period, NWC drew a power play. While they didn’t score, they seemed to gain momentum. The shots started piling up, as they started closing the once wide gap.
Finally, with a little more than 11 minutes gone by in the third, they got on the board.
Johnson let one rip from near the blue line and it deflected off the goaltender’s stick and into the back of the net.
The goal added to the Hawk’s energy level. And two minutes later, with three minutes left, they added another when Allie McCarthy and Rachel King executed a beautiful rush.
McCarthy slid a perfect puck to King who had only the goalie to beat and did so with a top shelf wrist shot, sneaking in just under the cross bar.
Suddenly, the deficit was cut in half.
But, even though the shots continued to grow closer, with NWC eventually taking 19 to the Aces’ 23, the score remained the same. The Hawks had dug a little bit too big of a hole.
But in a game that doesn’t carry any significance to conference standings and not much more to section standings, NWC looked at the first two periods as a learning opportunity and at the third period as something to build off.
“We knew this would be a good team,” said Johnson.” It’s more of a building game for us, we’re just trying to get better each game, learn from our losses.”
With over a week till their next game (Saturday, Nov. 30th at Brainerd), the Hawks have time to cure some of things that ailed them in the first two periods.
“We learned a lot from the game,” added Johnson. “So we can now have a week to work on that. It was a great time for us to have that game.”
Hawks 6, Cambridge-Isanti 0
The visiting Riverhawks jumped all over Cambridge-Isanti in the first game of the season, winning 6-0 behind a shutout from LaMere. Rachel King scored two goals to lead a balanced attack.
Johnson said it was a game the Hawks were anxious to play.
“We had three weeks of practice before our first game, so we were pumped to play finally,” she said. “It was great to get that first conference win.”
After traveling to Brainerd, the Riverhawks’ next game is Dec. 3 at rival Buffalo.
Contact Clay Sawatzke at email@example.com