By Nick Gerhardt
Northfield extended its win streak to three games Saturday with an 8-0 thrashing of Mankato East at Northfield Ice Arena and brought the Raiders one step closer to securing a Big 9 Conference title.
The Class A No. 8-ranked Raiders (18-5, 12-3 Big 9) dominated the Cougars (8-14, 6-7) by outshooting them 48-9 with senior goaltender Keaton Walock extending his state-record career shutout total to 20 games. Walock broke the record of 18 set last year by Mahtomedi’s Ben Dardis during a 5-0 win Feb. 4 against Owatonna.
Northfield leads the Big 9 Conference with 32 points following the win with Rochester Century (13-10, 10-4 Big 9) in second place with 28 points. The Raiders have a four-point conference game against Austin Thursday in Austin (3-17-1, 1-13-1 Big 9) and close out the regular season with a two-point conference game against Mankato West (7-12-3, 5-7-3 Big 9) Saturday in Northfield. The Panthers have two four-point games remaining, first a meeting with Red Wing (1-18-4, 0-10-3 Big 9) and Winona (8-11-2, 3-8-2 Big 9). A Northfield win Thursday against Austin clinches a share of the conference title. Rochester Century can win the conference outright by winning its remaining games and a Northfield loss to Austin. The Raiders can win the conference title outright with a pair of wins or a Panthers loss in either of their final two games.
Northfield scored on its first shot of the game Saturday against Mankato East when junior winger Cayden Monson’s shot found the back of the net with sophomore winger Will Cashin and sophomore center Brayden Olson picking up assists.
The Raiders took advantage on the first of two five-minute major boarding penalties on the Cougars later in the first period when junior forward Kam Kaiser blasted a one-timer from the slot to make it 2-0. Monson and senior defenseman Mike Fossum, who finished with a team-high four points, picked up assists.
Fossum picked up his first goal in five games 2 minutes, 18 seconds into the second period on a rebound during the second five-minute major power for a 3-0 lead. Fossum’s four-point game pushed his total to seven in the past two games after a three-point night against Rochester Century in an 8-3 win.
Kaiser tallied his second goal of the game and 32nd of the season at 9:25 of the second period on a breakaway with a pretty backhand finish with Fossum and junior defenseman Ty Frank assisting.
At 14:01 senior forward Brayden Brakke scored his second goal of the season during a 3-on-1 break with Gabe Sawyer assisting to push the score to 5-0.
Senior forward Cullen Merritt scored his fifth goal of the season 15 seconds into the third period after hammering home his own rebound to make it 6-0. Sawyer and Fossum picked up the assists.
Junior forward Barrett Bradley scored his second goal of the season at 4:47 of the third with sophomore forward Griffin Kennelly and Cashin assisting on the goal.
Monson added his 15th goal of the season at 14:40 of the third period with Cashin assisting for his third point of the game.