The way the St. Cloud Tech boys hockey team lost its game, the Tigers weren’t just hungry for a win; they were frothing from the mouth.
But to get back in the win column after a six-goal defeat to River Lakes last week, Tech needed a surge from its top scorer, Tanner Skaja.
The senior forward scored four goals in the Tigers’ 6-3 win against St. Cloud Apollo on Thursday night at the Municipal Athletic Complex.
Tech also beat Apollo 5-4 in overtime earlier this season.
“I guess I was just shooting more tonight and the bounces started to go my way,” Skaja said.
Tech improves to 2-3 in the Central Lakes Conference and 4-3 overall. The Tigers play Sauk Rapids at 5 p.m. Friday.
Apollo (3-3, 6-5) plays Providence Academy at 1:45 p.m. Friday. Both games are at the MAC. They are all part of the Granite City Hockey Classic.
Skaja had four goals through six games going into Thursday but was held scoreless in the last two games.
Just as Skaja said the bounces weren’t going his way, the Tigers didn’t have anything positive cooking in the Dec. 17 6-0 loss to River Lakes.
“We needed to play well tonight, against a rival or whoever it may be,” Tech coach Joel Heitkamp said.
“We had no emotion and we weren’t moving our feet at all against River Lakes.
“We wished we could’ve played that next night. Two weeks was a long time to wait after that loss.”
The positives swung in Tech’s direction early Thursday.
Apollo received two minor penalties — Jacob Kemp for high sticking and Paul Kenney for slashing — on the same play, resulting in a two-man advantage for the Tigers 2:25 into the game.
Skaja made the Eagles pay 43 seconds later when he received a pass from Connor Wendt and shot the puck past Apollo goalie Nick Althaus at the 3:08 mark.
“It’s always good to come out and get the first goal to give you that cushion,” Skaja said.
Skaja managed to find a small opening on a poor-angle wrist shot for his second goal late in the first.
Apollo got a goal back when Dallas Haugen buried a puck that Tech goalie Austin Althaus let get away with 1:39 left before intermission.
Austin Althaus finished with 36 saves and Nick Althaus stopped 15 shots.
“Skaja buried some pucks but I thought we controlled the majority of the play,” Apollo coach Pete Matanich said. “They took advantage of our breakdowns and we didn’t play exceptional defense.”
Skaja was back to work by the third minute of the second period, when he completed the hat trick. He scored goal No. 4 off a turnover with 7:23 remaining in the game.
“Tanner was frustrated after the River Lakes game,” Heitkamp said. “He took it upon himself to work on his game.
“It was classic Tanner tonight. If you give him time and space, he’ll pick his spot and tonight, he did a great job of burying the puck.”