By PATRICK SLACK
Senior Joey Hanowski netted a hat trick to help lead the Little Falls boys hockey team to an 8-1 win over Sartell-St. Stephen, Saturday, earning a spot in the Section 6A championship game.
Neither team was able to take advantage of early chances until Little Falls junior Spencer Fenske flicked a wrist shot from the blue line past the Sabres goaltender 10:10 into the first period to put the Flyers ahead 1-0.
Junior Luke Majerle then powered a puck through traffic in front of the crease into the net three minutes later, giving Little Falls a 2-0 edge at the first intermission.
However, a late first period penalty led to an early second period power-play goal for the Sabres, cutting the deficit to 2-1.
That goal ignited the Sartell side, which came at Little Falls junior Mike Stumpf with everything it had over the next six minutes.
All of that and any chance of an upset was abruptly crushed though within a five-second exchange.
After the Flyers had finally worked the puck back deep into the Sartell zone, the Sabres attempted to clear it.
Little Falls senior Joey Hanowski pounced before the puck reached the blue line, skated in and buried the first of his three goals of the night 6:48 into the period.
The game was effectively over at that point as the Flyers scored five unanswered goals to blow the game wide open.
Senior Mitch Gregory scored later on in the second to make it 4-1 heading into the final period.
In the third, Hanowski scored two more goals, Majerle scored his second of the night before junior Matt Stumpf tacked on a power-play goal late to provide the final margin of victory.
Stumpf stopped 22 shots to earn the win in net.
Sartell appeared to have scored the first goal of the game midway through the first only to have it be disallowed when the net came loose.
Little Falls will take on Fergus Falls in the section finals Thursday back at MAC Arena in St. Cloud at 7 p.m.
The Flyers defeated the Otters twice during the regular season, winning 4-2 Dec. 8, then 7-1 Jan. 27.
Little Falls 8, Sartell-St. Stephen 1
Sartell-SS 0 1 0 – 1
Little Falls 2 2 4 – 8
LF: Spencer Fenske (Hanowski), 10:10 (pp)
LF: Luke Majerle (Newman, Hanowski), 13:35
SSS: Randall, 0:23 (pp)
LF: Joey Hanowski, 6:48
LF: Mitch Gregory (Bjorge, Stumpf), 9:51
LF: Hanowski (Stumpf, Fenske), 1:32
LF: Hanowski, 7:27
LF: Majerle (Newman), 10:06 (sh)
LF: Matt Stumpf, 16:28 (pp)
Saves: SSS: 24; LF-Mike Stumpf: 22.