By Shane Frederick
The Free Press
The Mankato West boys hockey team has had a high-octane offense this season, averaging more than five goals a game.
The fuel in that attack primarily has been the No. 1 line of Derek Frentz, Galt Goettl and Nick Campbell, which has dominated the top of the Big Nine Conference scoring race, sitting Nos. 1, 2 and 3, respectively.
But Tuesday night against Albert Lea, it was time for someone else to get in the act.
Sophomore forward Christian Klemme, who entered the game with just one goal, scored twice in the first 2 minutes, 18 seconds, sparking a 4-1 West victory at All Seasons Arena.
Klemme finished with a three-point game.
“He played unbelievable tonight,” West coach Curtis Doell said. “It really started his last game. He was getting opportunities. I said to Jay (assistant coach Jason Anderson) on the bench, ‘We gotta ride him. He’s got the hot hand.’”
Klemme’s goals came just 24 seconds apart and both looked like part of a highlight package for a 20-goal sniper. On the first, Klemme ended up down on the ice but whipped around his stick toward a loose puck and pushed it past goalie Garret Matz at 1:54.
At 2:18, on the same shift, Klemme walked the puck out of the corner, turned toward the front of the net and ripped a wrist shot over the goaltender’s stick-side shoulder.
“It started with a hard forecheck, doing the little things right,” Klemme said. “You need all three lines to win a game, and that’s what we did.”
Cole Filler assisted on both goals.
Albert Lea made a hard charge in the second period and got a little unlucky with a couple of shots off the pipe. But with 3:03 remaining in the frame, Alex Claassen scored on a power play to make it 2-1.
Doell called his timeout at that point and got after his team a bit.
The speech seemed to work. With Klemme moved to the top line, he and Frentz raced off on a 2-on-1 rush on the next shift. Frentz finished off the perfect pass from Klemme to make it a two-goal game again, just 20 seconds after the Tigers’ goal.
Frentz now has 26 goals and 50 points.
“Tonight’s got to be a highlight for (Klemme),” Doell said. “He played above and beyond. He started on the third line, and then was spot shifted on the first line. I love it.
“For us to go deep in the playoffs, we’re going to need all of our lines, all of our defenseman and both of our goalies.”
Conor Wollenzien got the win in goal, making 22 saves. West had 34 shots on Matz.
The Scarlets also got an insurance goal from Austin Langworthy with 1:06 to play.
West (15-4-0) will host Austin Thursday.