Wolves on hot streak
by Tom CoombeEly’s high school hockey team has shored up its defense and has excelled in close games.The result has been a surprising four-game win streak for the Timberwolves, including Tuesday’s 1-0 decision over Duluth Central at the Ely Arena.Together with a dramatic 4-3 win at Chisholm 10 days ago, and two straight wins in the consolation round at the Mora Holiday Tournament, Ely has rebounded to a 7-8 record after a 1-6 start.Defense has been the difference, according to head coach Brian Ensign.“We’re very happy with the way the kids are responding to a team defense that we have,” said Ensign. “We have some guys back and that’s helped our defensive corps. And our system that we have in place. It’s not just the defense but our forwards too, a total system. The kids are getting those things down and now they can work on getting fired up and playing hard.”Defensemen Jake Chamberlin and Gunnar Johnson are back on the ice after suffering early-season injuries and they helped anchor a unit that limited Duluth Central (2-10) to just 14 shots.Sophomore goaltender Warren Burger stopped them all to record the shutout, and Ely got the only goal it would need midway through the third period, when Jordan Richards scored after a pretty feed from Jake Curtiss. Eric Park also assisted on the tally.Curtiss had a pair of scoring chances in the first, but Central netminder Jesse Mattila stood him up.It was a defensive and penalty-filled battle, with both squads getting several power-play chances.In all, 20 penalties were called.The close win for the Wolves followed another nail-biter four days before at Chisholm.The Wolves avenged a 5-1 loss to the Bluestreaks with a 4-3 victory.Junior Richie Milovich was the star, getting the hat trick.That included the game-winning goal with 1:37 to play.Milovich scored unassisted, breaking a three-all deadlock.Milovich scored twice in the first period, once unassisted and the other time with help from Mike Krunkkala, to put Ely ahead 2-0.The Bluestreaks cut it to 2-1 late in the first and tied it midway through the second on a goal by Kevin Schlecher.Chamberlin put the Wolves back in front when he was assisted by Mike Pettit and Wayne Minier, but Chisholm rallied to tie the game before the end of the period.That set the stage for the third, and Milovich’s game-winner.“That was a huge game,” said Ensign. “If it would have gone the other way, it would have affected our confidence. They always seem to keep it close and make it a game.”Burger recorded 29 saves for the Wolves, who were outshot 32-20.Ely took a step up in competition Friday night when it met Section 7A contender Eveleth-Gilbert. Another tough game looms this Saturday at Two Harbors, which downed the Wolves 13-1 in December.“We have things going well, but we don’t want to get too ahead of ourselves because we have some tough games to go,” said Ensign.