Crimson puckmen off to roaring start

Maple Grove’s Kyle Kukkonen flips a backhander over the Edina goalie for a penalty shot goal. The Crimson defeated the defending state champ 7-5. (Photo by Rich Moll - richmollphotography.com)

The Maple Grove boys’ hockey team started the season with two impressive wins in the Turkey Trot Tournament in Plymouth.

The fourth-ranked Crimson erupted for three goals in a 3 1/2-minute span early in the third period to defeat defending state champion and No. 6 Edina Nov. 22.

With the score tied 4-4, Sam Jacobs scored a power play goal at 5:28, Cal Thomas found the net at 7:54 and Kyle Kukkonen scored on a penalty shot at 9:54 to put MG up 7-4.

Edina could not hold a 3-1 lead it built early in the second period. The Crimson capitalized on their scoring chances as they scored seven goals on 28 shots. Jacobs and Chris Kernan each scored two goals, Kukkonen had a goal and four assists, and Henry Nelson and Thomas each scored one goal. Jake Wieneke stopped 23 of 28 shots for the win.

Maple Grove exploded for five unanswered goals in the third period en route to a 6-2 rout of Moorhead in the second Turkey Trot Tournament game Nov. 23.

The Crimson trailed 2-1 enter the final stanza but got goals from Tyler Oakland (two), Kernan, Kukkonen and Jacobs to pull away. Wieneke made 16 saves in the win.

Maple Grove coach Todd Bergland feels the Crimson have what it takes to improve on last season’s 19-4-1 record and second-place finishes in both the conference and the section tournament.

“We will bring a lot of different looks to the table this season. We will have a good combination of speed and grit,” Bergland said. “We return a large percentage of our D core along with our starting goaltender. The incoming sophomore group is very deep and will challenge for varsity ice time.”

The fourth-ranked Crimson next host Roseau Friday, Nov. 29.

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