The senior forward doesn't have a flashy style, but his constant grinding was rewarded with a game-winning goal vs. Edina in overtime.
Hill-Murray senior forward Zach LaValle got almost everything he wanted from his game-winning goal in overtime on Saturday.
Looking for a "top shelf, highlight-reel goal," LaValle settled for a puck under the armpit of Edina goaltender Andrew Rohkohl as No. 1 Hill-Murray edged No. 3 Edina 2-1 on the road at Braemar Arena.
"It didn't go where I wanted it to go but it went in," LaValle said.
LaValle's goal was the difference in a game featuring two teams with similar green and white colors and disciplined styles. Hill-Murray (11-1-1) has yet to allow more than two goals in a game this season. Edina (11-3) has allowed more than two goals only twice.
Overlooked at times in hockey circles because he also plays football and baseball, LaValle's abilities and intangibles helped all three Pioneers teams reach their respective state tournaments as a junior.
Coach Bill Lechner said LaValle's goal Saturday was a reward for another steady performance.
"You look at him sometimes and you don't see a pile of flash," Lechner said. "But you watch the tape and he's always in the right spots grinding, working hard and giving himself the best chance to succeed. That's why I hope someone at the next level catches that."
Injury or illness left the Hornets without four starters: goaltender Willie Benjamin and forwards Miguel Fidler, Andy Jordahl and Dylan Malmquist. But the Hornets, who coach Curt Giles scolded for a lack of effort last week, played with urgency. Giles came away impressed with his team's renewed energy.
"The kids worked extremely hard and played extremely well considering we had four kids out of the lineup," Giles said.
Edina's Tim Spicola opened the scoring at 4:45 of the second period with a quick shot from the top of the circle that sent the puck through the feet of Pioneers goaltender John Dugas.
A good bounce helped Hill-Murray draw even later in the second period. A puck came off the boards behind Rohkohl into good position for Colten Greeder to slam home at 11:36.
The next goal was LaValle's game winner.
"You're disappointed in the loss due to the fact that they played so well against the best team in the state," Giles said.