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Trojans' regular season ends with 8-7 overtime loss to Windom

Feb. 16—WORTHINGTON — It was the regular-season finale for the Worthington High School boys hockey team Thursday and it ended in an 8-7 overtime heartbreak to Big South rival Windom.

The Trojans (7-17, 5-12) battled with the Eagles back-and-forth throughout the game as both teams traded the lead and fought back from deficits before ending regulation deadlocked.

In the overtime period, it was the Eagles who would emerge victorious as they even the season series between the two schools.

"I think for the majority of the game, we outplayed them," said Trojans head coach Tyler Nienkerk. "I think we almost doubled the shots, just we had a lot of chances that we didn't connect on and unfortunately they did on some of theirs."

In a high-scoring first period, the Eagles quickly got on the board less than four minutes into the game when Sonny Heil snuck the puck past WHS goalie Brody Pederson. It was the first of four goals from Heil. They scored again just over a minute later on a Luke Anderson goal.

Less than five minutes into the game, the Trojans were suddenly behind by two goals. But they would quickly come back and even the score with two goals from senior captain Caden Van Briesen.

His first goal came with 9:19 left on assists from Ian Bumgardner and Spenser Nickel. His second goal came only 10 seconds later after a face off when Anthony Jimenez raced down the ice and fed Van Briesen, who shot it past Windom goalie Adam Dahna.

The Eagles capitalized on a power play with a goal from Heil at the 7:32 mark to take a 3-2 lead. The Trojans again responded a minute later with an unassisted goal from Dominic Pavelko. WHS then took its first lead with 37 seconds left when Jiminez assisted senior Easton Newman in front of the net for a goal.

In the second period, Windom looked to erase the deficit and take control of the game. There were three goals scored in the second period, all of which came from the Eagles. The first was with 7:29 remaining on a power-play goal from Heil to tie the game and the second was a minute later from Wriley Haugen to go ahead 5-4. Nearly a couple of minutes later, a Karson Lacanne goal put the Eagles back up by two scores.

Again down by two goals, the Trojans had to fight back and they would do just that. It started right away in the third period when they got a power play at the 15:09 mark. WHS capitalized on it almost immediately when Jiminez and Nickel assisted Van Briesen on his third goal to secure a hat trick.

That gave Worthington momentum as they tied the game and later took the lead. With 8:20 left, Nickel tied the game at 6-6 and then with 7:17 left, Pavelko scored for the second time to put the Trojans ahead 7-6.

The Trojans had to fight back from a deficit a few times in the game as they continued to battle and keep themselves in it throughout.

"It'll take the kids a second to take that from it," Nienkerk said. "We were down two going into the third and there was no panic in the locker room, they knew they could come back and they have faith and belief in themselves."

From there, the Trojans tried to bleed out the rest of the clock to hang on to the win. They couldn't though as Windom tied the game on a Heil goal with 3:08 left.

With under a minute left in the third period, WHS got a power-play opportunity that extended into the overtime period with a chance to win the game. They couldn't capitalize and the overtime remained scoreless.

"We had one or two (shots) right in front and the (Windom) goalie made a good save, so credit to him. He made a couple of really good saves there," Nienkerk said. "Just a little better shot placement and a little more on the shots and things are different. It's tough to lose in that way, but they'll battle back from it."

Instead it was Windom who would score the winning goal with 2:32 left in overtime when Landon Pillatzki was assisted for the goal, and the Eagles stormed the ice in celebration.

The Trojans did win the battle of shots on goal, outpacing Windom in the category 44-31.

With the regular season now over, the Trojans will look ahead to the Section 3AA Tournament, which is set to begin with first-round games at high seeds Feb. 20. There will be 10 teams in the tournament and the top six seeds get a bye into the quarterfinals. The Trojans could possibly see a home playoff game come Tuesday, currently placing seventh in the section standings.

"It was really kind of an up and down," Nienkerk said about how the season has gone. "We started rough, we started bad and then we had a solid month there where we played really well. We played some teams that had beaten us pretty badly early and we played them very competitively. We've had a lot of games here in the last few weeks and you could kind of tell that the boys slowed down a little bit, so it was nice to have just a little bit of a break... Obviously you'd like to be going into playoffs on a little higher note, but I think the effort (Thursday) was really good and I was happy with that, so that's something to build on."

Windom 3 3 1 1 — 8

Worthington 4 0 3 0 — 7