Grant Slukynsky recorded a hat trick for the Warriors as part of their 4-1 win.

CROOKSTON - Warroad nearly tripled Crookston’s shots on goal 35-13, Warriors’ Grant Slukynsky scored three times for a hat trick and the Pirates fell 4-1.

    “We played exponentially better tonight than we did the first time,” Pirates Head Coach Josh Hardy said on facing Warroad a second time this season. “Tonight, we had a nice effort for 51 minutes. We got to tighten up some things defensively and mentally, but it was much better than earlier in the year.”

    The Pirates’ only goal came from Jack Doda (8th Grade F) to tie the game at 1-1 in the first period. After Slukynsky gave Warroad a 3-1 lead in the third, Owen Meeker (Jr. F) put the game on ice with an open-net goal.

    Jack Ricord (Sr. G) played in the net for Crookston (3-12-1) and stopped 31 out of 34 shots. Zach Foster (Jr. G) finished the game for Warroad (9-6) with one blemish and saved 12 shots.

    “Credit to Jack Ricord,” Hardy said. “I thought he played a really nice game today. We weren’t giving up a lot of grade A opportunities, and the ones we did, they made us pay. Jack played a nice game, we did a nice job of keeping the pucks to the outside and [Warroad] was able to overcome it at the end.”

    Neither team created much in terms of scoring chances for the first 6:30. The Warriors ended the scoreless tie when Slukynsky found the back of the net on Warroad’s third attempt of the game. Meeker and Sky Solig (So. C) earned credit for the assist.

    Not even a minute later, the Pirates delivered the equalizer with Doda putting in his third goal of the season, assisted by Ty Hamre (Jr. D) and Brock Heppner (Sr. F).

    Warroad earned two power play opportunities with nine minutes to play and three minutes to go in the first period, cashed in on neither and the two squads left the ice for the first intermission tied 1-1. Shots favored the Warriors 10-5 in the period.

    Even though Warroad outshot the Pirates 35-13 overall, Hardy put more focus on time of possession.

    “I thought, time of possession-wise, [Warroad] was dominating,” Hardy said. “But going up and down the ice, we had some good opportunities. We just didn’t get a bounce late in the game. But that comes down to making our own puck luck by moving our feet and continuing to work hard.”

    The Pirates struggled to maintain possession of the puck for extended periods of time and notched only four shots on goal for the second period compared to Warroad’s 10. The Warriors kept the puck in Crookston’s zone for the majority of the half, and it paid off as Slukynsky tallied his second goal of the contest with 12 minutes play. Hunter Pelland (Sr. F) contributed on the assist.

    With 4:15 left in the frame, Warroad committed a tripping penalty to give Crookston their first power play of the day, but the Pirates let the Warriors escape unpunished.

    Despite Crookston beginning the final period with a more dominant offensive performance, Slukynsky completed a hat trick with 9:36 to play to make it a 3-1 game. The puck bounced around in front of the net and Slukynsky banged it home with help from Meeker and Pelland.

    “[Slukynsky’s] a Division I prospect, and when you get a kid like that, he looks like a man among boys sometimes the way he can handle the puck and take the puck to the net,” Hardy said. “We obviously knew that coming in. He burned us twice with some pretty nice shots, then we let him sit backdoor and didn’t pick him up.”

    Desperate for offense, Crookston played 5-on-4 with 3:45 left in the game and pulled Ricord for a 6-on-4 advantage with the clock showing 2:18, but only mustered one shot on goal.

    The Pirates played with an empty net after the power play and for the remainder of the game. The Warriors used it to their advantage and issued the dagger when Meeker scored an open-net goal for a 4-1 lead with 28 seconds to go.

    “We drew up some face-off plays, but at the end of the day, you just got to get pucks to the net,” Hardy said on his team’s play in the final minutes. “I thought we needed to do a better job of getting two or three guys on the puck. We weren’t as aggressive as we needed to be.”

Crookston now hits the road for a matchup against Detroit Lakes on Tuesday, January 15 at 7:30 p.m.

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