Prep boys hockey: Greenway's Lawson nets hat trick while brother receives kidney transplant
Donte Lawson received some encouraging words from an unlikely source Saturday afternoon as he prepared for a Section 7A boys hockey semifinal.
The Greenway senior was in Minneapolis, where his younger brother, Dominik, was getting ready to undergo a third kidney transplant at University of Minnesota Children’s Hospital.
Dominik’s advice to his older sibling: “You need to go to that game and win it, and we’re gonna have two victories tonight.”
Donte took the advice to heart, recording a hat trick to lift the third-seeded Raiders over No. 2 Duluth Denfeld 6-2 at Amsoil Arena.
He called it a “tough family decision” whether he would leave the Twin Cities or not. Donte always has been Dominik’s “security blanket,” their father, Jim “Bird” Lawson, told the News Tribune last year. But he did and, immediately after Greenway ran its winning streak to eight games, Donte learned that the surgery was going well.
He headed straight back to Minneapolis.
Lawson tacked on two assists in a dominant individual performance that ensured the Raiders (14-13) a third straight trip to the section final, where they’ll hook up with Hermantown on Wednesday night in a rematch of the 2018 title game.
His brother was on his mind all night.
“There’s no doubt he played for his brother tonight,” Greenway coach Grant Clafton said. “It showed his character.”
A brilliant play from Ben Troumbly set up Lawson’s second goal, midway through the second period. Troumbly kept the puck alive and Lawson picked it up with just enough net to shoot at, making it 3-1. A minute later, he cycled behind the goal and back out front before centering Tristan Birdsall, who made it 4-1. Ten seconds after that, Troumbly converted a Lawson feed.
And, just like that, what had the makings of a fitting finale to Semifinal Saturday at Amsoil turned solidly in Greenway’s favor.
Logan Jasper scored for the Hunters (14-9-3) in the first period and, with Denfeld trailing 5-1, Jacob Eskola gave the Hunters a trace of life in the third. Lawson promptly snuffed it out with his final goal of the night.
“They were fast, they were skilled and they moved the puck,” Denfeld coach Dale Jago said. “And we just never settled in.”
The Raiders have become accustomed to playing on this stage in late February. For the Hunters, though, it hasn’t been the norm. Jago admitted his club came out nervous. Still, Denfeld didn’t go quietly.
“That’s the one thing about our team, is we’re resilient,” the coach said. “We never go away.”
The Hunters had edged Greenway 4-3 in overtime during a 4-0 start to the season. That night, sophomore goalie Jacob Snyder made 50 saves. It was his teammate’s chance to start between the pipes Saturday, and junior Shawn Easty didn’t disappoint, finishing with 30 stops, many of the acrobatic variety.
The Raiders just never quit coming, their high-end skill on display throughout.
Now they get a rematch with the Hawks a year after the teams engaged in a thrilling championship. Hermantown survived that night, winning 5-4 in double overtime.
Duluth Denfeld 1-0-1—2
First period — 1. G, Nikolai Rajala (Mitchell Vekich), 5:24; 2. G, Donte Lawson (Ben Troumbly, Micah Gernander), 8:04; 3. DD, Logan Jasper (Griffin Lehet, Kade Shea), 9:37.
Second period — 4. G, Lawson (Troumbly), 8:46; 5. G, Tristan Birdsall (Lawson, Cameron Lantz), 9:53; 6. G, Troumbly (Lawson), 10:03.
Third period — 7. DD, Jacob Eskola, 4:09; 8. G, Lawson (Lantz, Birdsall), 10:34.
Saves — Logan Wright, G, 23; Shawn Easty, DD, 30.