Knights show mental toughness

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Jim Franz/Beloit Daily News Casper Clark of Beloit Memorial, left, controls the puck against Madison Memorial Thursday night.

BELOIT — Tyler Jensen loves scoring goals. It’s one of his favorite things in life so scoring a hat trick in a 6-2 victory over Big Eight Conference foe Madison Memorial was admittedly something special.

To be honest, though, the Beloit Memorial senior forward got a pretty big charge out of preventing goals Thursday night, too.

The Purple Knights had to kill off nine penalties and on three occasions were faced with a 5-on-3 disadvantage at Edwards Ice Arena.

Jensen was on the ice with his cousin, junior Riley Jensen and with senior Brady Wright in those do-or-die situations.

He even scored on one of them.

“It was definitely something special,” Jensen said of the defensive effort. “All three of us were working hard. We were playing at home, hustling and doing the things we were taught.”

“Our three-man penalty kill played it perfect,” Beloit head coach Kurt Buchs said. “You couldn’t have asked for any better than the way we played it. It goes back to what we said before the game. The team mentally stronger over the course of the game will come out on top.”

The Knights (8-6-0, 4-4-0 Big Eight) did have to overcome a few things along the way. The Spartans came out of the first period with a 1-0 lead, despite the fact they had been outshot 16-4.

“We outshot them, but they outplayed us,” Buchs said.

The situation didn’t look to be improving when two Knights landed in the penalty box early in the second period. But Madison Memorial made a critical error in its own end as a Spartan dropped the puck for a teammate behind the net only to have him turn away and leave it wide open for Jensen to snatch and deposit past goalie Wes Turner for the tying goal with 13:03 still to play.

“I was pressuring the guy down low, and I saw the puck was left behind the net,” Jensen said. “I worked my butt off to get the puck and found a clear opening to the net.”

The Knights couldn’t celebrate for long as the Spartans’ Jack Helle got Beloit goalie Taven Santucci to commit low and then shot high for a go-ahead, power-play goal with 10:37 left,

“We didn’t buckle, no matter what,” Buchs said.

Just 28 seconds later, Jacob Benzing’s goal off Riley Jensen’s assist tied it up again.

After killing off yet another 5-on-3, Jensen went to back to work, taking a pass from his cousin and scoring with 2:17 left in the period for a 3-2 lead.

“Tyler kept his feet moving all night and he’s a tough guy to keep up with when he is going full-throttle,” Buchs said.

The Spartans were held scoreless in the third period as Santucci collected 10 saves, while the Knights gradually pulled away, They cut their penalties from five in the second period down to three in the third, giving them more 5-on-5 chances. Riley Jensen, Tyler Jensen and Benzing all scored, with the last coming with just nine seconds remaining off a terrific pass from Tyler Jensen.

“Five on five we had these guys,” Jensen said. “We were getting pucks deep, forechecking hard and getting shots on goal. We kept pounding it.”

Jensen is excited about the second half of the season.’

“We had a good weekend in the Dells at a tournament and now we’ve won a big conference game,” he said. “I think we’ve really turned our season around. The past few games we’ve been working as a team, passing well, every line is working hard and Tevan had a great game in goal. It was all-around a good team win.”

Buchs concurred.

“We’re getting a lot of good play,” he said. “Casper Clark’s contribution may go a bit under the radar, but he has really solidified our second line.”

Santucci finished with 23 saves. The Spartans’ Turner had 49.

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