Day dreams came true for Kyler Couture and Jamison St. Clair in their North American Tier III junior hockey debuts for the new Minnesota Loons franchise Friday, Sept. 17, at Breezy Point Arena.
Couture, a Pequot Lakes graduate who played his senior year last winter for the hometown Northern Lakes Lightning, and St. Clair, who is a senior at Aitkin High School and will play his final year for the Lightning this winter, scored the first two goals in Loons history in the season opener against the Granite City Lumberjacks.
Unfortunately, those goals were the only tallies for the Loons in 5-2 and 4-0 losses to Granite City in a home-and-away weekend series.
But the goals were memorable for Couture, who gave the Loons a 1-0 lead when his first-period wrist shot from 25 feet sailed through traffic and into the net.
“I didn’t get much on the shot and it was sinking,” Couture explained of his milestone goal, “It was pretty exciting. The day before I was daydreaming about getting our first goal. I was comfortable playing at home since I grew up playing on the (Breezy Point) rink. It’s also nice to have my brother (Kegan) as an assistant coach.”
The goal was one of his most memorable for Couture, who also scored in overtime for the Lightning in a 4-3 home win over Princeton in the Section 5A quarterfinals last season.
Granite City rallied late in the opening period with three goals, including two just 13 seconds apart for a 3-1 lead. The Lumberjacks netted the only goal of the middle session, but St. Clair had his spotlight moment at 4:37 of the third period on a penalty shot after he was pulled down on a breakaway.
“You always dream about scoring in your first game when you move up to a higher level,” said St. Clair, who also explained his strategy in his first ever penalty shot. “I just did what was comfortable. I started out on my forehand. Then I slowed down to back up the goalie and open up the net. Then I scored on a low wrist shot.”
The goal reduced the deficit to 4-2. Granite City did add a late insurance goal on the power play against losing netminder Owen Reeve, who finished with 53 saves.
Brett Reed of Crosslake, a former Lightning player, picked up a first-period assist as a forward for the Lumberjacks.
“It was neat to play against Brett,” Couture said. “He’s two years older than me, but we played hockey together over the years. We’re a young team, but it’s nice to get to know the competition in the league.”
On Saturday, Granite City won 4-0 by scoring a pair of goals in both the first and second periods. Loons goaltender Payton West stopped 63 shots.
The Lightning are scheduled to play at the New Ulm on Friday, Sept. 24, and then host Willmar at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 25.