Henry Lechner faked going one direction, then went the other. Staring at him, as big as a cathedral, was an open net. Tap in.
It wasn’t as much of a goal as it was a Picasso. Watching him expertly use the ice rink as his canvas, you’d think the 6-foot-2, 180-pound Lechner was a senior, maybe a junior. Not a freshman playing his first varsity game.
“He fits right in perfectly,” Holy Angels coach Pat Griswold said Wednesday night after Lechner had a breakaway goal and two assists in the Stars’ 9-0 victory over Rochester Lourdes at the Richfield Ice Arena.
Lechner, no relation to legendary Hill-Murray coach Bill Lechner, amassed mind-boggling scoring totals as a youth player in the Bloomington Jefferson system. He kicked the tires at several private schools before settling on Holy Angels.
“I liked all the teachers that I met with,” Lechner said about his visit to the Richfield-based school. “And then I looked at the roster and saw there was a bunch of upperclassmen.”
Lechner says he likes playing with guys who, as he says, know what they are doing. Seniors Ricky Nelson and Nik Johnson, with their vast experience and exceptional hockey IQs, fit that description to a T.
“We already got the chemmy down, day one,” said Nelson, who had a hat trick against the Eagles after scoring four goals all of last season. “I think we’re gonna have a real big season here.”
Lechner, Nelson and Johnson combined for six goals in Wednesday’s victory. They scored in a variety of ways. Sometimes on pretty passing plays, sometimes on just good old shoot-and-crash-the-net tenacity.
Lechner threaded a pass through the neutral zone to send Nelson in on a breakaway for one of his third-period goals.
“I love that line,” Holy Angels coach Pat Griswold said. “You’ve got a really high-end freshman. But, you know, Ricky and Nick have been around for a couple years, and their game has just elevated a ton since since last year.
“At our summer hockey and scrimmages they’ve been doing this the whole time. I’ve had to tell them, ‘Don’t be so unselfish, sometimes you’ve got to shoot the puck too.’ ”
Griswold said he was relieved to see Lechner get his first goal early in the season. Not that it was a huge surprise. Last summer Lechner was one of 12 Minnesota forward selected to play in USA Hockey’s Boys’ Select 15 National Development camp.
“In Bantams and Pee Wees he was averaging 75 to 85 goals a year,” Griswold said. “I just told him at the beginning fo the year, you're not gonna score 75 goals again. It’s high school hockey. It’s different. For one, we only play 25 games. And it's a big jump from A Bantams to AA varsity hockey.”
It’s a big jump from middle school to high school, too. That’s where those upperclassmen come in handy. Lechner typically hitches rides to and from school and practice from junior defenseman Jack Barfield. In the evenings, when the players go to school sporting events, Nelson usually serves as his chauffeur.
“Ricky’s the most social kid I know in school,” Lechner said.
The high-energy Nelson encourages Lechner, who speaks with a maturity beyond his years, to hang out with kids outside the hockey team. And not just juniors and seniors.
“Henry, he's not the most social kid,” Nelson said. “So we’ve got to get him talking with his grade, too. Can't be friends with upperclassmen only.”
No doubt the social side of school will all work out with Lechner. Just like scoring that first goal.