The feeling of accomplishment has been a measured one for Minnesota Owls sniper Vincent Currao.
He's been the arguably the Minnesota Junior Hockey League's most lethal scorer in 2013, and will enter the final stretch with the second most goals (37) among all Minnesota Division scorers.
Yet, with his team stuck in a 12-game rut, the sense of achievement had been leveled some.
"I feel good about what I've been able to do, but when the team isn't winning, it makes it harder to enjoy," Currao admitted earlier this week. "That's why last weekend was so good. We found a way to win, and we needed that."
Of course, Currao certainly played a role in what was a 5-2 victory at the Steele County Blades Feb. 16.
Currao finished with a hat trick - his fifth of the season - and set up another as the Owls ended their 12-game losing streak with an impressive showing in Owatonna, Minn.
The Owls actually almost won the night before as well, losing 7-5 to Maple Grove in a game that saw Currao score twice.
The back-to-back performances have become a trend as of last for the Jackson, N.J. native.
He's been held goalless in just four of the past 16 games, and has netted 21 goals in that stretch.
He credits the prowess for a role he has assumed with the team, which on most nights, has featured Currao trying to strap the rest of the Minnesota line-up to his back.
"I knew I had to score," he said. "You just keep telling yourself that if I don't do it, who is going to do it. I wanted the pressure. My entire line has been really stepping up as of late, and that's been big."
They key now could be rebuilding the momentum the Owls had way back in September and October.
Minnesota started the 2012-13 season with six wins in nine games, which included a five-game winning streak that lasted from Sept. 22 to Oct. 7 - or right about the time the team's group of before-and-after high school players prepared to depart for the prep season.
Currao said the team is expecting most of those players to return in the coming weeks, giving the current group the jolt of confidence equal to what last weekend's victory provided.
"We are planning on having the high school players back," he said. "If we get them and start practicing, I'm hoping we can just gel like we did in the beginning of the season and go on a run here."
Time is short. Minnesota plays at the Edina Lakers Wednesday, Feb. 20, before returning home to Isanti, Minn. to host Hudson Friday, Feb. 22 and the Dells Ducks Saturday, Feb. 23.
That's it for the regular season, meaning if that run comes to fruition, it will have to include a first-round playoff upset of either TwinCities or Rochester.
"That is why the win last weekend was so big for us," said Currao. "It can turn into that snowball effect. It can lead to two wins real fast, and it can get you on a winning streak going into the playoffs, which is what we really need. You don't want to go into the playoffs having lost your last five or six regular season games and then you show up and play Rochester or the Lights. We want to be playing well before then."
Elsewhere in the in the Minnesota Division of the MnJHL:
Dells Ducks: The Dells Ducks took just the opener of their three-game road trip last week. Layne Martin (Findlay, Ohio) and Ian Harris (Fort Wayne, Ind.) scored a pair of goals each, and Gavin Porter (Boyne City, Mich.) and Jacob Stima (Roscoe, Ill.) assisted on three apiece in an 8-4 win at Edina Feb. 15. Harris also scored in a 2-1 shootout loss at Maple Grove Feb. 16, and Stima had the Ducks lone goal in a 4-1 defeat at Twin Cities Feb. 17.
Edina Lakers: The Lakers dropped their only game last weekend, falling to the Dells Ducks 8-4 Feb. 15. Adam McMasters (Austin, Minn.) had a pair of goals, and Brad Johnson (Round Rock, Tex.) set up two in the defeat.
Hudson Crusaders: The Crusaders lost twice last weekend in games at Twin Cities (10-0) and Rochester (11-2) Feb. 15 and 16. Patrick Herbert (Woodbury, Minn.) and Ryan Anderson (Rosemount, Minn.) scored Hudson's goals in the loss to Rochester.
Maple Grove Energy: Maple Grove won two of three last weekend, thanks in large part to Vladyslav Makorevych. The Kyiv, Ukraine native had five goals in a 7-5 win at the Owls Feb. 15, then netted a power play goal with to play to force overtime in an eventual 2-1 shootout victory over the Dells Ducks Feb. 16.
Rochester Ice Hawks: The Ice Hawks swept their two-game weekend Feb. 15 and 16. Corey Grummick (Olympia, Wash.) was perfect on 30 shots in a 3-0 victory over SteeleCountyFeb. 15, and then Luke Richardson (Sauk Rapids, Minn.) had a hat trick and Austin Rust (Algonac, Mich.) and Matt Day (Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif.) both scored twice in a 11-2 win over Hudson Feb. 16.
SteeleCounty Blades: SteeleCounty salvaged two points in its three-game weekend with a 4-3 shootout victory over Maple Grove Feb. 17. Adam Carlson (Edina, Minn.) made 39 saves in goal and Kirby Kinslow (Huntingtown, Md.) had a goal and an assist in the win.
Twin Cities Northern Lights: Twin Cities continues its season long roll with three more victories last weekend. Tyler DuHadway (Fort Collins, Colo.), Dylan Blankenship (Fairbanks. Alaska) and Matt Pietrzkowski (East Bethany, N.Y.) each scored twice in a 10-0 win over Hudson Feb. 15. Jace Childs (Savage, Minn.) then had back-to-back four point games in an 8-1 victory at Edina Feb. 16 and a 4-1 win over the Dells Ducks Feb. 17.
Games this week:
Wednesday, February 20
Minnesota Owls at Edina Lakers,
Maple Grove Energy at Twin Cities Northern Lights,
Friday, February 22
Dells Ducks at Maple Grove Energy,
Edina Lakers at Steele County Blades, 7:05 p.m.
Hudson Crusaders at Minnesota Owls,
Saturday, February 23
Hudson Crusaders at Maple Grove Energy,
Rochester Ice Hawks at Steele County Blades, 7:05 p.m.
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