Oliver Moore’s feet were flying. Austin Burnevik’s big body was banging. And Luke Delzer had his emotions sufficiently in check.
All the ingredients for a Totino-Grace victory seemed to be in place heading into the third period against Rogers on Tuesday night at the Rogers Activity Center. Except for one thing. The Eagles were leading by a goal.
This was not a comforting scenario for Totino-Grace, which had previously blown third-period leads in losses to Andover and Blaine.
“Tonight, to come out with a lead in the third, and grow on it … it’s huge for us,” Totino-Grace co-head coach Tim Parkos said after the Eagles pulled away for a 6-3 victory over the Royals (6-2-0). “Huge for our guys to get the confidence to know they can perform in tight games.”
The Eagles (2-2-1) consist of an unusual mix of veterans (seven seniors) and youngsters (eight freshmen and sophomores). Many of those players are high-enders, players such as Moore and Burnevik, who are 10th and 12th, respectively, in Legacy Hockey’s rankings of the state’s top sophomores. Delzer, a senior who played his youth hockey in Rogers, was selected to played in the Upper Midwest High School Elite League this fall.
Moore, in particular, is projected for a high-level career beyond high school.
“Best payer I’ve ever skated with,” Delzer said about the 5-foot-10, 165 pound Moore, who shares the Eagles’ scoring lead with Burnevik with 12 points. “He never stops moving his feet, he’s always going to the net. He’s just a great player.”
All of Moore’s considerable skills — most notably a silky skating stride and soft hands — were on display against the Royals, as he scored twice and added two assists. Moore, who matched up for most of the game with Rogers scoring leader Sam Ranallo, also a sophomore center, had multiple other scoring chances, including a partial breakaway in the second period. Ranallo, who has 21 points this season, was held to a single assist.
“He’s a really good player,” Moore said about Ranallo. “But I don’t really care who I’m playing against. I just try to go out there and work hard and play my game.”
Delzer, know as “Delly” to his teammate and coaches, most certainly did care who the Eagles were playing Tuesday. He wore Rogers colors through his second year of Bantams, and remains friends with “a good six or seven” of his former teammates.
Rogers beat Totino-Grace 4-3 in overtime last season at the Rogers Activity Center in the teams’ lone meeting. Delzer, admittedly, was unusually nervous for that matchup.
“He didn’t have his best game,” Parkos said about Delzer, who had two assists in the rematch. “He’s got immense talent and skill, we’re trying to get him to understand you’ve got to play a little more physical, you’ve got to be smart.
“I thought he played great tonight.”
Despite his close ties to the Royals and the intensity of the matchup between two of the Northwest Suburban Conference’s emerging programs, Delzer said there wasn’t a lot of verbal jousting out on the ice.
“It’s all love,” he said with a grin, adding, “It just feels great. Last year we came in here we didn’t play too well, so it just made this year so much better, coming in here and getting the win.”
The 6-foot-3, 190-pound Burnevik, did his part. He deployed his physical style effectively, and again proved he has a scorer’s touch, notching two goals to increase his team lead to eight.
Totino-Grace was forced to start the twice-delayed regular season, shortened from 25 games to 18 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, two weeks later than the Jan. 14 start date because of exposure to the virus.
“I don’t think we try to make too many excuses for ourselves,” Moore said. “It was obviously tough having to quarantine, but I thought we dealt with it well and are finally getting our feet back under us now.”