EVELETH — On any given day, a hockey game between fierce rivals Eveleth-Gilbert and Virginia would be enough to fill the Hippodrome or Miners Memorial Arena.
On Thursday night however, the Hippodrome was filled to capacity and then some as two schools gathered to move one step closer to becoming one.
The final score will read a 4-1 victory for the Golden Bears, but players, fans, students and community members now know they’ll be uniting under name in just a short time: The Rock Ridge Wolverines.
Between the second and third periods, players and students from both schools took to the ice to introduce the new school to an erupting Hippodrome.
The green and black Wolverines won’t take to the ice until the 2021-2022 season, so the two teams had to square off and renew their rivalry once again.
From early on, the Golden Bears looked to be the aggressors in Thursday’s game. But it was the Blue Devils who lit the lamp first.
Eveleth-Gilbert peppered shots left and right off of Virginia netminder Ian Kangas, but Virginia’s Dillon Drake took his chance on a power play and fired one past E-G goalie Mack Lautigar to put his squad up 1-0 just 6:40 into the game. He was assisted by Logan Bialke on the play.
The Devils took two penalties of their own following the goal and Kangas faced 22 shots in the opening period, but nothing got by him through the first 17 minutes as Virginia went into the first intermission with the lead. Lautigar stopped 5 in the opening period.
The Golden Bears continued to pile on the shots in the second period and they finally managed to get one past Kangas 6:44 in.
Will Troutwine snuck one by Kangas unassisted to knot things up and the Bears continued to apply offensive pressure throughout the period while Virginia struggled to get off many more shots.
Later in the frame, Bryce Kopp etched a goal of his own off the assist from Elliot Van Orsdel and Cole Meyer. The goal came at the 14:47 mark and swung things clearly in favor of the Bears who now held the lead and controlled the pace of play with the puck.
Following an extended second intermission due to the new school festivities, the Devils entered the third period with a man advantage for 1:54 as E-G senior Alex Haas found a seat in the penalty box just seconds before the end of the middle stanza.
The Bears penalty kill, however, dashed any hopes Virginia had of knotting things up early in the frame. Back at full strength, it only took Eveleth-Gilbert 32 seconds to find the back of the net once again as Brandon Lind scored his first goal of the season to put the home team up 3-1. Lind was assisted by Jack Halliday and the goal came at 2:26 in the period.
The Golden Bears wrapped things up six minutes later with Nathan Tassoni scoring the fourth E-G goal of the contest at the 8:29 mark. He was assisted by Halliday and Nick Troutwine.
In the loss, Virginia’s Kangas stopped 47 shots. His Bears’ counterpart Lautigar stopped just 14 in a game where E-G spent most of the time on the Devils end of the ice.
Soon to be united under a common mascot, the two teams will continue on their separate ways this season as the Bears improve to 14-6 and currently hold an eight-game win streak. They’re set to host Duluth Denfeld on Tuesday. The Blue Devils fall to 5-12-2 and will host Sartell-St. Stephen on Saturday.
VMIB 1 0 0 — 1
EG/ME 0 2 2 — 4
1, V, Dillon Drake (Logan Bialke), PP, 6:40.
2, E, Will Troutwine (unassisted), 6:44; 3, E, Bryce Kopp (Elliot Van Orsdel, Cole Meyer), 14:47.
4, E, Brandon Lind (Jack Halliday), 2:26; 5, E, Nathan Tassoni (Halliday, Nick Troutwine), 8:29.
Penalties-Minutes: VMIB 2-4, EG/ME 3-6.
Goalie saves: Ian Kangas, V, 22-14-11—47; Mack Lautigar, E, 5-4-5—14.