Wolves win third-place trophy

Pierce’s seven-point afternoon highlights victory over Redwood Valley

THIRD PLACE WINNERS - Ely’s high school hockey team placed third at last week’s North Shore Holiday Classic, beating Redwood Valley 7-4 in the third-place game. Pictured are (front, l-r), Mark Killoran, Lori Huseby; (middle, l-r) Seann Prigge, Joey Pierce, Dalton Schreffler, Louie Meskill, Thomas Montana, Luke Olson, Austin Meskill, Jeremiah Kaercher, Manager Arrin Frank; (back, l-r) Matt Killoran, Trea Schreffler, Ryan Knuuti, Jon Wenzel, Kyle Lakner, Nick Mattila, Gage Merhar, Alex Scholl, Brandon Hanson

by Tom Coombe -

A big performance by their youngest player helped the Ely Timberwolves score the program’s best finish ever at a holiday tournament on the North Shore.
Eighth-grader Joey Pierce had a hand in every goal as the high school hockey team beat Redwood Valley 7-4 in the Dec. 30 third-place game at the North Shore Holiday Classic.
Pierce had two goals and five assists while splitting time between his usual spot on defense and one of the Wolves’ forward line.
The outing was the best yet by the impressive rookie, who leads the Wolves in scoring.
“He’s just so dedicated,” Ely Head Coach Ben Johnson said of Pierce, who has racked up 18 points in nine games. “He’s always working on his game. He’s a fixture at the rink. He’s always doing something to better himself and it’s slowly paying off.”
Pierce’s seven-point afternoon capped off a big week for the Wolves on the North Shore, where they won two of three contests and the third-place trophy.
Ely also climbed over the .500 mark to 5-4 overall.
“It was fun for the kids,” said Johnson. “They got a trophy and got to take pictures after the last game. We won that first game shorthanded and that brought the team together. We faced a Rice Lake team (in the semifinals) that was really fast and they ended up winning the whole tournament.”
The Wolves opened the tournament with a solid win over Legacy Christian, but were blanked 4-0 by Rice Lake (Wis.) in a Dec. 29 semifinal tilt.
That set up the third-place game at Silver Bay’s Rukavina Arena and the Wolves settled in after spotting the southwestern Minnesota team a 2-1 lead.
Pierce helped turn the tide, scoring two goals in a 19-second span to put the Wolves up 3-2.
Ely took control in the second stanza, scoring four times to all but put the game away..
Sophomore Nick Mattila initiated the damage, getting his first goal of the day while being set up by Pierce and junior Gage Merhar.
Senior Jon Wenzel added back-to-back goals to make it 6-2, and Mattila would add another goal before the period game to an and.
Three of Ely’s four second-period goals came on the power play.
“They were a big team, an older team, but we stuck it to them,” said Johnson. “We stayed out of the penalty box early and we were able to get a 7-2 lead and hold on.”
Redwood Valley scored twice in the final frame to make it interesting, but Ely had more than enough cushion.
Senior goalie Lori Huseby turned back 28 shots to get the win, with Pierce, Mattila and Wenzel scoring two goals each and freshman Luke Olson adding another.
Merhar and Mattila had two assists each.
Rice Lake had single goals in the first and second frames and two more in the third to take the semifinal clash.
Four different Rice Lake players scored while Sam Bliese and Trey Aaby had two assists each.
Huseby recorded 19 saves.
• The Wolves have a two-game weekend home stand that includes one of their biggest tests, a Friday night showdown with International falls.
“We really want to beat International Falls,” said Johnson. “We’re definitely gearing up to come out flying against them and hopefully it turns out well for them. I’m not sure what happened to them early in the season, but they are a good hockey team right now and just beat Warroad.”
The Wolves are also home Saturday (3 p.m.) against Pine City.