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For only second time, Wolves take down Falls

Ben Leeson was the goalie for Ely against International Falls. Echo file photo by Ken Hupila.

by Tom Coombe

Ely’s high school hockey team already has six wins this winter, but victory number-six may have been more significant than any or all of the first five.

It came Tuesday at the Ely Arena, where the Timberwolves edged section rival International Falls 3-2 and made some history in the process.

In 69 total contests between the two programs, it was just the second Ely victory and the first in regular season play.

The only other Ely win over the Broncos came in a Section 7A playoff upset during the 2018-19 season, when the Wolves pulled out a 4-3 win at International Falls.

“It was our first win ever over the Falls during the regular season, and our first one at home, and the boys really deserved it,” said Ely Head Coach Jake Myers. “They earned it. They worked their butts off and got the job done.”

At 6-2, the Wolves are off to their best start on the ice in better than two decades and the win over the Broncos was their second straight against a section opponent.

Senior Deegan Richards had two of the Wolves’ three goals but the biggest goal of the contest may have come from Wes Sandy.

With the score tied at one late in the first, Sandy punched one past the Broncos’ netminder with only three seconds left, giving the hosts a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

“Sandy just dumped the puck in on the net, put it in there hard and hit the goalie in the shoulder and went in,” said Myers. “You never know what can happen when you put in net and it was a huge lift for us, no doubt.  We had given up a goal very quickly before that but this gave us huge momentum going into the locker room and we gained a lot of confidence.”

Richards, who turned a turnover into an Ely goal in the first frame, added his second goal of the night and sixth of the season midway through the third.

The Wolves used that cushion to withhold a late rush that included tally by the Broncos’ Asher Keep, closing the gap to 3-2 with a minute left.

Ely goaltender Ben Leeson stopped everything in the second and all but the late Keep shot in the third, finishing with 32 saves for the night.

“Ben played a solid game and didn’t give up any dangerous rebounds,” said Myers. “He worked hard and gave us a chance to win this game.”

The Wolves also overcame 18 minutes in penalties, keeping the Broncos off the board during their power play chances.

“We survived a few penalties and were able to keep pucks to the outside,” said Myers.

The Broncos (0-3) outshot the Wolves 34-25, with International Falls goalie Kane Thompson finishing with 22 saves.

Keep and Zach Youso scored for the visitors.

Sandy had the only Ely assist.

For the Wolves, the win was pivotal in their effort to climb the ladder in a nine-team section.

“Beating Falls helps us stay out of the bottom two position in seeding but we still need to win more games,” said Myers. “It definitely was a step in the right direction.”

Ely gets another crack at a section opponent Dec. 21 at Coleraine, when it takes on Greenway.

• Junior Garrett Rohr had his first career hat trick in a 7-1 home win over Moose Lake last Saturday at the Ely Arena.

Rohr had goals in all three periods as the Wolves dominated, outshooting the Rebels 51-24 in the first of three regular season meetings between the teams.

Jayden Zemke scored on the power play to put Ely ahead in the first while Brecken Sandberg and Rohr added goals in the frame.

Drew Marolt, Richards and Rohr scored in the second frame.

Richards had a three-point game, adding two assists and freshman Owen Marolt had two assists. Sandberg finished with a goal and an assist and Leeson wound up with 23 saves.

Payton Nordstrom had Moose Lake’s only goal.

• In a wild Dec. 7 road contest, Ely scored five third-period goals to rally past Ashland (Wisc.) 7-5.

Zemke’s unassisted goal midway through the final frame broke a four-all deadlock, and Drew Marolt added two more goals in the period.

Ely had 26 shots in the final period, 53 in the game and overcame five second period penalties.

Drew Marolt had a five-point game, getting a hat trick and two assists.

Both Sandberg and Richards had a goal and an assist, while Zemke finished with two goals in the game. Sandy added an assist and Leeson made 46 saves.

Gavyn Moncher and Parker Pisco had two goals each for the host Oredockers, and losing goaltender Michael Haas recorded 42 saves.

• In junior varsity action on Tuesday, International Falls beat the Wolves 10-3.

• Ely hosted Burnett County (Wisc.) in a Friday night game at the Ely Arena.

Coming up over the holidays in a four-team holiday tournament in town, with Kittson Central, St. Paul Johnson and Moose Lake joining the host Wolves.

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