Midway through the third period in Friday's home game against Bismarck Century, the Detroit Lakes boys' hockey team were almost on the verge of losing its first back-to-back games all season.
Almost, that is.
The Lakers saved the game and hopefully started a new winning streak with three consecutive goals all with under seven minutes remaining in regulation for a 5-3 win over the visiting Patriots.
DL finally broke the armor of Bismarck's goalie Cam Knutson in the third period, converting three goals on seven shots on net. Knutson previously allowed just two goals on a total of 23 shots in the first two periods.
"Sometimes when you keep peppering a goalie and you pop one in, they start to let a couple more in," said DL head coach Jason Vold. "It plays in their heads and they start to lose some confidence."
Knutson's confidence was literally shattered in the final six minutes and the first one to "pop" was a power play goal by Nick Grabow, who took the pass off the faceoff in front of the blue line, taking an unimpeded slapshot right passed Knutson.
The goal was big in that DL trailed 3-2 at time, as the Lakers started to dominate on the Patriots' side of the zone.
The dam started to crack and junior forward Joe Schiller did his share to keep the cracking going, as he took a Jedd Harms' pass on the right side, glided past a Bismarck defender and took a nice backhand shot for a DL 4-3 lead.
The insurance goal was put in by Harms after a scrum in front of the net allowed the DL forward to poke the puck past the red line and a 5-3 margin.
"They had a good goalie in there tonight and it finally came down to the traffic in front of the net," Schiller said of the third-period breakout. "We just started getting some good shots through the traffic on him."
The Lakers took control early in the game, with defenseman Nick Braun scoring 12:42 in the first with the assist by Harms.
First line forward Jake Bergquist clicked the scoreboard to 2-0 1:35 into the second as each of Schiller and Harms had a helping hand on a quick wrist shot past Knutson.
But the Patriots would go on a three-goal scoring streak, with forward Matt Berger shooting in the first two in the second period, with the go-ahead goal coming in the third with forward Alex Bortke taking the shot passed DL goalie Mike Haggart.
Schiller finished with three points on a goal and two assists, as Harms one-upped his first-line teammate with four points on one goal and three assists. Haggart finished with 18 saves and Knutson had 30.
The win came at the heels of a loss against Park Rapids last Tuesday, DL's first home loss of the season. The Lakers definitely didn't want to have their first losing streak of the season Friday, especially with both at home.
"It's a big win because we didn't have back-to-back losses all season," Schiller said.
The Lakers improve to 17-4 on the season as they enter what possibly could be their most important week of the regular season.
DL will have two big section road games, beginning Tuesday in East Grand Forks and ending Saturday against the top section team in Thief River Falls.
EGF holds a 2-4-2 record in Section 8-1A, while the Lakers are fifth at 4-3. The Prowler of TRF are 7-0 in the section and have a firm hold on the top seed.
The Lakers' top line of Harms, Schiller and Bergquist hold three of the top five scorers in the section. Schiller is second with 52 points (20 goals, 19 assists), Harms is fourth with 48 points (19, 22) and Bergquist is fifth at 46 points (20, 25).
Haggart holds the top spot in the section before Friday's game with a 91.4 save percentage and a 2.00 GAA in 15 games played.
"We're going to have to come to play every night," Schiller said of the key to DL's success rest of the season. "We had a little lull there against some teams we thought we should have beat, but hopefully we'll peak at the right time now."
Added Vold, "Hopefully this win will install some confidence heading into next week, which is one big week for us."
Bismarck Century at Detroit Lakes, Friday, Feb. 3.
Patriots 0 2 1 - 3
Lakers 1 1 3 - 5
First period -- 1. DL, Nick Braun (Jedd Harms) 12:42.
Second period -- 2. DL, Jake Bergquist (Harms, Joe Schiller) 1:35; 3. BC, Matt Berger (Alex Bortke) 15:01; 4. BC, Berger (Pat Dehne, Bortke) 15:42.
Third period -- 5. BC, Bortke (Ian Emery) 2:29; 6. DL, PP Nick Grabow (Schiller) 10:55; 7. Schiller (Harms) 11:14; 8. DL, Harms (Grabow, Schiller) 14:50.
Saves -- DL (Mike Haggart) 7 8 3 - 18...BC (Cam Knutson) 11 12 7 - 30.