The Steele County Blades had plenty of reasons to celebrate Sunday, December 8 at the Four Seasons Centre in Owatonna. Their 3-2 win over the Minnesota Blue Ox was their first-ever over that franchise. It was also their fourth win in the last six games. Goalie Josh Brown (Minnetonka) stopped 45 shots to get the victory.

Seva Bannikov (Minsk, Belarus) scored twice and assisted on the other goal. Danila Besedin (Moscow, Russia) assisted on all three tallies. Those two skaters are the first and second leading scorers for the Blades this winter.

Steele County recovered from a bit of a slow start and a 1-0 deficit after the Blue Ox scored at the midway point of the first period (Max Beller, Sioux City, IA at 10:02). Veteran defense man Ryley Cook (Rochester, MN) had these thoughts, "I thought we played really well. We didn't have the best start. And that's one of the things I think we need to work on as a team. But we were able to find a way to push through it."

Forty seconds after the Blue Ox got on the board, Steele County converted a power play chance on a great backdoor feed to Bannikov, with Besedin and Jake Freise on the assists. Bannikov scored off a steal at 12:33 of the second period. Besedin and Will Christensen (Sandy, UT) got the assists on the breakaway goal.

The Blades went up 3-1 early in the third period on a 2-on-1 set up on a wonderfully tipped puck from Bannikov to Besedin, who set up Connor Lee (Sydney, Australia) for his eighth goal of the season at 4:23.

Nick Mueller (Buffalo, MN) scored for the Blue Ox at 11:07 with an assist from Oliver DeCrook (Lugano, Switzerland) to pull within 3-2. Minnesota put on a great amount of pressure down the stretch but Brown kept everything else out of the net.

Hear a full interview with Cook by clicking on his name below.

Cook has played hockey from coast to coast and beyond, even playing in Hawaii while his father was stationed there in the military. This is his fourth year of junior hockey. As a veteran on a team with a number of rookies, he says, "having some empathy for guys, knowing that you have been in their shoes before and knowing how they feel, making sure that they know that. They feel reassured they're being heard and they're not the only ones going through stuff. It is really hard to come in right away and try to make an impact in your first year. Helping those guys out a little bit is a big part of being a veteran."

Cook will play at Williston (ND) State next winter.

The Blades play at the Rochester Vipers Saturday, December 14 at 7 pm at Graham Arena. Sunday, December 15 Steele County hosts the Hudson Havoc at 7 pm at the Four Seasons Centre in Owatonna. The Blades will play at a showcase event in Chicago just before Christmas and in New England just after New Year's.


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