BREEZY POINT, Minn. – Last year’s Minnesota Loons may have won only five games, but this year’s team is ready to give opponents a battle in the best top-to-bottom division in the North American 3 Hockey League.
The Mason City Toros picked up a weekend sweep Friday and Saturday night at the Breezy Point Hockey Center, earning wins by scores of 5-2 and 5-3 respectively. The inaugural season of Toros hockey last year also started off with a sweep, thanks to 8-5 and 3-2 wins over the Alexandria Blizzard at the Mason City Arena.
Willem Kerr’s goal at 1:34 of the opening period on Friday gave the Loons their first tally – and first lead – of the season, but the Toros struck back to take a 2-1 lead going to the second period. The equalizer came from Luke Robertson at 7:13 of the period, followed by a power play goal from David Loahr with 5:09 remaining, thanks to a hooking call against Breezy Point’s Jamison St. Clair
Holden Pratt’s goal at the halfway mark of the second period tied the game at 2-2, but two straight goals just 40 seconds apart in the final minute put the game out of reach. Loahr picked up his second goal of the night with 57 seconds to go, and Cal Levis put an exclamation mark on the period with a goal of his own with just 17 seconds on the clock. Matt Kochanowski’s goal less than three minutes out of the intermission put the opening game of the year out of reach for the Loons.
They fared a little better against the Toros on Saturday evening, going ahead twice. Garrett Burroughs got the first of the two leads with a goal at 7:39 of the first period, but Colin Hedland got the Mason City power play unit on the board at 11:01 to tie it after an interference call against Blake Keller. Kyler Couture’s tripping call with 4:34 left in the period opened up the ice again, and Cullen Hogan posted another power play goal with four minutes left to give Mason City the lead.
Easton Tok’s interference call with 2:05 left in the period was a costly one itself – with just 1:26 left, Dmitri Kuleshov’s goal gave the Loons their first power play success of the new season, tying the game at 2-2 going to the second.
St. Clair made good on his previous infraction by giving the Loons the go-ahead goal just 18 seconds out of the first-period break, but three second-period goals from Mason City were sufficient to seal up another success. The tying goal came from Ethan Peterson at 5:44 of the second period, while Hogan posted his second special-teams goal of the night with a shorthanded marker at the 14:35 mark. Hayden Siegel’s first Toros goal came with just six seconds left in the period, and despite 20 combined shots in the third period, the teams went scoreless over the last 20 minutes to sew up another win for Mason City.
Zack Ortolano had 25 saves in the season opener to earn the win Friday night, while Keaton French took the hard-luck loss behind 42 stops of his own. The Loons didn’t fare appreciably better on Saturday, with Connor Graham making 28 saves to earn the win.
The Loons got off to an impressive 4-for-11 start on the power play, while Kuleshov’s goal was the first on the power play for Minnesota in eight chances this year. The three leads for Minnesota were their first-ever in the series with the Toros, who have won all 10 matchups against the Loons in their brief history.
The coming week is an off week for the Toros, with the first home game of the season still a few weeks away. New Ulm is set to host Mason City Friday and Saturday, September 30 and October 1. The puck drops both nights at 7:10 p.m.
Advance tickets for all upcoming Mason City home games are available now at masoncitytoros.isportstix.com. Updated news and information on Toros hockey are always available at www.masoncitytoros.com, and by following the Toros’ social media platforms on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.