Blake Lueck has never really considered himself a goal scorer. But go ahead and affix the label to him anyway. He’ll wear it with pride.
“I love to be called a goal scorer, but I always used to be more of a pass-first guy,” Lueck, a junior forward, said Wednesday night after scoring four goals in Spring Lake Park’s 8-2 victory over Osseo at Fogerty Arena in Blaine.
Lueck’s change in roles has coincided with his pairing with senior forward Jacob Fritz, who had a goal and four assists. It’s hard to think pass when you’ve have just received the puck in prime scoring position.
“With Fritz, he always gets me the puck, hitting me where it needs to be,” Lueck said. “I feel like I have to shoot.”
So that’s what Lueck does. Shoots. And, with high regularity, scores.
Lueck’s four goals give him a team-best 13 this season in 12 games. He led the Panthers with 18 goals in 26 games last season. Half of those goals came in back-to-back games against Minnehaha Acdemy, with Lueck scoring six goals in the first game against the Redhawks then notching a hat trick in the following night’s rematch.
“It’s nice when I can just give the puck to him and he just ends up scoring,” Fritz said about Lueck. “Nice for me getting points.”
Lueck’s outburst Wednesday followed a hat trick in the Panthers’ previous game, an 8-4 triumph over Coon Rapids. Lueck’s latest scoring spree wasn’t wholly unexpected. Spring Lake Park lost 7-5 to Osseo on Jan. 23 in a game with a combined 20 infractions called for 64 minutes. The Panthers devoted Monday and Tuesday practices this week almost completely to special teams. Monday was spent working on penalty killing; Tuesday was power-play day.
All that special teams teams work proved prophetic. There were 17 penalties called for 49 minutes on Wednesday. Spring Lake Park (3-9-0) went 3-for-6 on the power play and killed all six man-advantage opportunities for the Orioles (3-7-1). Panthers senior Brock Larsen scored both of his goals on the power play.
Spring Lake Park assistant coach Connor Gagnon said the Panthers are at their best on the power play when players are moving into open positions as they pass and receive the puck as opposed to standing still.
“Our power play does really well when we have movement,” Gagnon said. “When they move, that’s when good things happen.”
Lueck’s speed and elusiveness serve him well on the power play, as do Fritz’s pinpoint passes. The Xs and Os don’t need to be overly complicated with these two.
“The one set play we kind of have is Fritzy feeding,” Lueck said. “He sets up everybody he sees.”
Lueck is, of course, a favorite target.
“Natural chemistry,” Gagnon said. “Jacob is a super hard worker, a captain for a reason, a great character kid. Works his butt off all the time. He’s a great distributor.
“Blake is a good shooter. He’s a natural goal scorer, he finds himself in the right places around the net.”
The Lueck and Fritz partnership extends beyond the ice. They left the rink together, walking side by side with hockey bags slung over their backs and sharing a laugh as they enjoyed a second straight win.