By Nick Gerhardt
Northfield’s depth has started emerging early into the season while its senior leadership continues to guide the team.
The No. 5-ranked Raiders benefitted from both Tuesday in a 6-3 win over Monticello at Northfield Ice Arena in a game that included overcoming adversity.
Northfield ran into penalty trouble, especially in the second period. With 29 seconds remaining on one penalty, the Raiders (6-1, 3-0 Big 9) took a five-minute checking-from-behind penalty with 12 minutes, 44 seconds left in the period. Northfield successfully killed both penalties to preserve a 3-2 lead.
“Obviously when you compound a penalty with another one, especially a five-minute major, you kind of put yourself in a unique situation where you not only have to kill a 5-on-3 but kill the rest of a 5-on-4,” Raiders head coach Mike Luckraft said. “It’s a similar group of guys that plays special teams so you’re just continue to play. It’s nice this year because we have a little more depth. We’re to play guys in different roles, especially on the PK. That was huge to keep them off the scoreboard the whole five minutes.”
Northfield’s senior line of Cayden Monson, Kam Kaiser and Jake Geiger got going in the third period after seeing plenty of time on the penalty kill. Kaiser scored first just 1:48 into the period with Will Cashin and Monson assisting on the power-play goal.
Class A No. 6-ranked Monticello (4-2, 2-0 Mississippi 8) cut the lead to 4-3 with a power-play goal at 2:49 when Nicklas Nelson scored on a slapshot from just inside the blue line.
Monson extended the lead to 5-3 on a nice move to the net on a feed from Kaiser. Monson snuck the puck between the legs of goalie Owen Soderhold at 3:07 of the period.
Geiger capped the scoring with a wrap-around goal during a delayed penalty to make it 6-3. It was a momentous goal for the senior Geiger, notching his 100th point as a Raider.
Early on, sophomore forward Christian Whiteman helped lift the Raiders to a 2-1 lead in the first period. Whiteman scored 3:03 into the period and added a go-ahead goal at 8:36 after nice passing play from junior forward Griffin Kennelly and Kaiser.
The Moose tied the game at 5:31 of the first period with a power-play goal from Roman Thompson.
Monticello tied the game 1:26 into the second period following a Northfield turnover at its blue line. Liam O’Donnell broke into the zone to make it 2-2.
Kennelly notched a goal of his own less than a minute later with assists from sophomore forward Oliver Benjamin and freshman defenseman Ben Geiger to put the Raiders up 3-2.
“We’ve been talking about some of our third-line guys stepping up and contributing offensively,” Luckraft said. “They’re still getting acclimated to high school hockey. It was great to see through two periods that Christian had scored twice and Griffin had scored.”
Trey Shimota earned the win in goal for Northfield after turning away 25 shots. Monticello outshot the Raiders 28-26.
“I was glad tonight that Trey stepped up and made some of those plays that we needed,” Luckraft said. “In general, he made all the saves we needed him to make and I think our defensemen did a good job of clearing pucks off to the side. We didn’t give up a lot of dangerous chances, at least in the third, which was our best period.”
Luckraft has liked what he’s seen so far from his younger players.
“I think our depth will come to fruition once those sophomore guys continue to take steps forward,” Luckraft said. “Obviously, that line of seniors is super dynamic. They didn’t have a point until the third period and then got all three. All of a sudden, it’s boom, boom, boom and the leadership takes over.”
Northfield faces Spring Lake Park (1-2-1, 1-1-1 Northwest Suburban) Friday at Fogerty Arena in Blaine.