Shoot the puck. Crash the net. Score.
In so many words, that’s what Dodge County coach Nick Worden has been preaching to his players since the opening day of practice.
So Worden was particularly pleased to watch Wildcats’ junior Matt Donovan execute his three-step plan to perfection on Tuesday night while scoring the overtime goal in a 3-2 triumph over Hopkins at the Hopkins Pavilion.
Donovan’s initial shot from the high slot was partially blocked by a defenseman’s stick. That made it difficult for Royals freshman goaltender Jimmy Davis to draw a bead on the puck, which hit him and then squiggled toward the right post.
“It was right on the goal line, and I just whacked it in,” Donovan said after securing No. 12-1A Dodge County’s first win of the season. “It felt amazing. I was glad to get the game over with.”
The Wildcats (1-1-1) have played three straight Class 2A opponents to start the season in Northfield, No. 1-2A Maple Grove and Hopkins. Donovan, who scored 12 goals in 16 games last season, said the big-school teams have more big bodies than the Wildcats are used to seeing.
“They are all very physical teams,” Donovan said. “They like to push on you a little bit. We’re a smaller team but we like to use our speed on them, we like to beat teams wide and get our shots on net.”
The final step is get to the net. With purpose. As Worden preaches, that’s where good things happen. Like Donovan’s goal.
“It was awesome to see him score that goal,” said Brody Lamb, a University of Minnesota commit who scored 49 goals last season and is No. 2 in Legacy Hockey’s rankings of the state’s top juniors. “We’ve played together our whole lives. I probably wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for him.”
Lamb, who drew an abundance of unwanted attention from Hopkins defenders, scored to put Dodge County ahead 2-1 early in the third period, only to have Louis DeGiulio force the extra period by knocking home a loose puck in the crease with 31 seconds left in regulation.
Then Donovan took over, following his coach’s instructions by doubling as a freight train as he zoomed toward the net.
“He did a good job there at the end,” Worden said. “That’s what I’ve been preaching, have a party at the net.”