HIBBING — Hibbing/Chisholm High School girls hockey coach Pete Hyduke knew his team was going up against one of the top lines in the state of Minnesota.
Claire Vekich and Mercury Bischoff are two of the top scorers in the state, along with Jazzy Bischoff, so there was no room for error whenever that line was on the ice.
Unfortunately for the Bluejackets, that line would get five goals as Grand Rapids/Greenway rolled to a 6-0 victory over Hibbing/Chisholm Thursday at the Hibbing Memorial Arena.
Vekich would score four goals and tally one assist in the game.
To try and slow that line down, Hyduke had six components he wanted to accomplish — protect the house; shoot the puck; puck protection; stops and starts (transition); time and space; and one, two, three, with the third wing high.
For the most part, Hyduke’s team accomplished those goals, but all it took was two mistakes and too many penalties, and Vekich and company took advantage of it.
“When we focused on those and played to those strengths, I thought we played them even up,” Hyduke said. “I thought we disrupted their play. Rapids has one dynamite line, and they have a phenomenal power play.
“You have to stay out of the box, and when their top line is on the ice, you have to take away time and space because they will make you pay. There’s a reason why Vekich is going Division I. She’s a heck of a hockey player, as is that whole line.”
Vekich’s first goal came at 7:13 of the first period on the power play, but after that, the two teams played even.For most of the second period, Hibbing/Chisholm and the Lightning traded rushes, but with under five minutes to go, two critical mistakes gave Grand Rapids/Greenway the opportunity it needed to pull ahead.
Vekich would score at 13:38, then Molly Pierce scored at 15:34 to make it 3-0.
“In the first two periods, I thought we made two mistakes, and they made us pay for them,” Hyduke said. “When you have pure scorers and a player of that caliber and the puck is on her stick…
“When we played them straight up and when we did what we needed to do, we were right with them, toe-to-toe. It was two mistakes that cost us. We’ll have to correct those, but they were simple mistakes that resulted in them getting those two chances.”
That was the topic of conversation between the second and third periods.
“We talked about it after the second period as to how easy it would have been to have prevented those goals,” Hyduke said. “We had one misstep where we had a line change that shouldn’t have occurred. The puck wasn’t deep, and we were on the short end of the ice.
“The great thing about that game is it’s at the beginning of the year, and it’s a nice team to learn from.“We played them tough. They won on the scoreboard, but I thought we worked hard.”
In the third period, Vekich scored another power-play goal at 5:22, then Mercury Bischoff scored a power-play goal at 9:11. Vekich finished the scoring at 11:11.
Lightning goalie Makenzie Cole stopped 18 shots to get the shutout, but Hyduke wasn’t too disappointed in his teams’ offense during the game.
“Overall, I thought we ran our systems well,” Hyduke said “I thought all three lines created offense. We didn’t score, but Rapids blocked a lot of shots. We need to find a way to get the puck to the net.
“Their goalie did a nice job handling everything up high. What could have been potential rebounds saves, we needed to shoot lower, and we shot too high. She caught everything that was high and gave up nothing back.”
Bluejacket netminder Addison Hess had 21 saves.
“I’m proud of the girls,” Hyduke said. “We know we have things we have to clean up. When we did play and focus on those six components we wanted to be better on today, we every bit as good as they were on the ice today.”
GRG 1 2 3 — 6
HC 0 0 0 — 0
First Period — 1. GRG, Claire Vekich (Mercury Bischoff), pp, 7:13.
Second Period — 2. GRG, Vekich (Mercury Bischoff, Jazzy Bischoff), 13:38; 3. GRG, Molly Pierce (Vekich), 15:34.
Third Period — 4. GRG, Vekich (Mercury Bischoff), pp, 5:22; 5. GRG, Mercury Bischoff (Kalle Reed, Vekich), pp, 9:11; 6. GRG, Vekich (Morgan Carsrud, Amber Elich), 11:11.
Goalie Saves — Grand Rapids/Greenway, Mackenzie Cole 9-4-5—18; Hibbing/Chisholm, Addison Hess 6-10-5—21.