Alex Bren recorded a hat trick and Jack Hines polished off a 33-save shutout to clinch the Mid-State boys hockey championship in a 3-0 Detroit Lakes victory over Northern Lakes Friday, Feb. 7 at Kent Freeman Arena.
“We forced a lot of outside shots,” DL head coach Ben Noah said. “We did play well defensively in front of Hines, but what he did was stop every first shot and didn’t give up big rebounds. When there were rebounds there, we were there to clear it out.”
Hines was able to send pucks on net to the corners and the Lightning struggled to get any traffic in front throughout all three periods despite doubling DL up on shots in the first 34 minutes.
“When we’re at our best in front of him and we get his best, put that all together and we can beat anybody,” said Noah. “That’s what we’re trying to push for and if it all comes together I think we’re going to like the result.”
The Lakers got on the board first by capitalizing in front of Lightning goalie Adler Hoagland four minutes into the game.
Bren was all alone with the puck with a juicy rebound off a Maddux Kovash shot from the point. Hoaglund had no chance sprawled on the ice with the entire goal wide open for Bren’s easy first tally.
Northern Lakes came right back at Hines off the center draw but the DL junior was strong in the crease denying two quality chances by Logan Hill and Caiden Kjelstrom.
Lightning captain Shane Donovan had the best chance of the period for the visitors but his shot clanged off the pipe to keep the zero on the scoreboard.
DL’s Spencer Bergman had an open net to shoot at with 90 seconds left in the period but his forward momentum took him behind the net before he could get a shot off.
He promptly went to the penalty box on a tripping call for the first of five Northern Lakes empty power play chances.
Hines made three big saves in the last half minute to kill the penalty.
The Lakers' defensive group played a solid game and were keys to the victory. Part of that was getting captain Reed Benson back in the lineup after an extensive absence due to injury.
“We weren’t quite sure what that injury was going to entail,” said Noah. “That was a nice shot in the arm for our ‘D’ corps to have Reed back and it just gives everyone else confidence around him. It gives us depth, confidence and our defensemen played a good game tonight.”
Northern Lakes dominated offensive play in the second period but had nothing to show for their efforts despite a 27-14 edge in shots on goal. Hines and DL’s defense simply were not going to give in.
Jacob McAllister was stopped on a breakaway by a Hoaglund kick save late in the period. Bren scored his second of the night at 14:54.
“I can’t say enough good things about Alex this year,” said Noah. “We had a lot of things to clean up with him and he has absolutely matured day by day. He’s become a really good leader on and off the ice. When you play the game the right way like he has been for us all year, you start to get rewarded and he’s starting to see it. He’s not taking penalties anymore. He keeps his mouth shut when things don’t go his way and I’m very proud of him.”
The Lakers clinched the victory with a 9-6 shots advantage in the third period. Lukas Justesen set up Bren for the hat trick into the empty net with one second left on the clock.
Final shots were 33-23. Hines picked up his sixth victory (6-5-1). Bren extended his team lead in points with 28 (13G, 15 A).
The Lakers (12-9-2) host Park Rapids (4-18) Tuesday, Feb. 11 at 7 p.m., and finish the regular season against a tough Little Falls team (18-5-1) Thursday, Feb. 13.
The win capped an emotional week after the team presented freshman team manager Logan Hilde a sled so he could join the team on the ice. The Lakers surprised Hilde with the sled Thursday night during practice.
"He loves hockey; he loves our guys," said Noah. "He's just an impressive young man. He talks hockey with the best of him and our guys love having him around."
Detroit Lakes 3, Northern Lakes 0
NL 0 0 0 - 0
DL 1 1 1 - 3
DL - Alex Bren (Maddux Kovash, Drew Schwan)
DL - Bren (unassisted)
DL - Bren (ENG) 16:59 (Lukas Justesen)
Saves: DL - Hines 33; NL - Hoaglund 20