Ely goes 0-2 in western debut

by Tom Coombe -

They scored only two goals and lost a key forward to injury, but the Ely Timberwolves made the most of a difficult season-opening weekend in northwestern Minnesota.
Kittson County Central scored 6-0 and 8-2 victories over the high school hockey team, which opened the season with only 14 available players.
Ely’s ranks were further thinned when first-line sophomore Jimmy Zupancich suffered a broken collar bone in the opening period of the Nov. 23 season debut.
Yet despite the obstacles, head coach Ben Johnson said he was impressed with how his team persevered.
“We went out there with thin numbers against a very good, very big team,” said Johnson, who began his fourth season as head coach. “We had a lot of young guys with the jitters. But overall we competed with the numbers we had.”
Zupancich, who figured to be one of Ely’s leading scorers, went out several minutes into the first game and will be out until early-January.
KCC led 1-0 after the opening frame and had 17-9 edge in shots on goal, but the hosts came on in the middle period.
Back-to-back goals by Calvin Hanson, the second one shorthanded, were backbreakers and Luke Misson added another tally for the hosts, who grabbed a 4-0 lead.
Goals by Hayden Hennen and Tyler Bakken closed out the opener, as KCC outshot the Wolves 38-24.
Freshman netminder Chase Sandberg had 32 saves for the Wolves.
Wyatt Olsonawski recorded 24 saves while getting the shutout.
The second game was all-KCC through the first two frames, with Misson scoring twice and Landon Sudgen adding a goal and two assists as it was 6-0 through two frames.
Ely got on the board in the final period, breaking a weekend-long drought on goals by senior Austin Meskill and junior Dalton Schreffler.
Luke Olson and Jackson Flom had assists but Ely was unable to cut further into the KCC lead.
Hanson had a pair of third-period goals to close out a four-point afternoon and Olsonawski was largely untested, turning away only nine Ely shots.
Ely goalies Sandberg and Tyler Housey combined for 34 saves.
Of the weekend, Johnson said “it exposed us in a positive way to what we need to work on.”
The Wolves geared up this week in preparation for Saturday’s home debut, slated for 2 p.m. at the Ely Arena, against Wadena-Deer Creek.
Another home game is set for Dec. 7, at 7 p.m., as North Dakota school May-Port makes the long trek to the Iron Range.
Ely will bolster its ranks this weekend with the return of senior Jerry Kaercher, junior Jason Skube and sophomore Sawyer Klingsporn to the lineup.