Mattila on hat trick spree; Ely soph scores six goals in two games, in running for state honor

by Tom Coombe -

In some hockey venues across the continent, a player’s third goal is greeted with a parade of hats being tossed on to the ice.
If that was the case in Ely, Nick Mattila would have so much headwear he’d be able to wear a different hat every day.
Since Jan. 19, the sophomore forward has had four hat tricks, including two on back-to-back days as the Wolves downed Bagley 6-1 and 4-1 in a two-game series Feb. 3-4 at the Ely Arena.
Mattila, who now has a team-leading 25 goals this winter, has played a key role as Ely has climbed back over the .500 mark to 11-9 and reached double digits in victories for the first time in more than a decade.
“He’s really starting to come along,” said Ely Head Coach Ben Johnson. “When he uses his speed he can really get things done. Last weekend the two hat tricks and when we went to Red Lake Falls a four-goal game and a three-goal game. He’s starting to come into his own and that’s nice to see.”
Mattila’s efforts have been noticed beyond the region.
This week, he was one of 10 players in the running for the State Player of the Week Award as selected on prep hockey website mnhockeyhub.com.
Mattila is having a breakout season after going through some growing pains in his freshman campaign.
“He’s more focused and he seems more comfortable in his environment and that’s making a big difference,” said Johnson.
After suffering a concussion in a Jan. 28 loss to North Branch, Mattila returned in a big way six days later against Bagley, scoring twice in the second period as the Wolves extended their lead to 5-0.
Mattila’s third-period tally secured the hat trick and an Ely win on a night when the Wolves outshot the Flyers 38-24.
Ted Pierce, Jon Wenzel and Thomas Montana added goals for the Wolves, while freshman Luke Olson had a pair of assists.
Winning goaltender Lori Huseby recorded 23 saves for the Wolves.
Bagley’s only goal came in the final frame - an unassisted tally by Tanner Levin.
The following day provided more of the same.
This time, Ely outshot the visitors 55-16 but had a hard time solving Flyer goalie Ben Thoma.
Bagley took an early 1-0 lead on a goal by Griffin Brovold, but Mattila got the equalizer with five minutes left in the frame. Wenzel and Joey Pierce assisted.
In the second, it was Joey Pierce who provided the game-winning goal.
Mattila added insurance in the final period, scoring twice in a two-and-a-half minute span to put the game away.
Joey Pierce finished with two assists for the Wolves and senior Mark Killoran notched 15 saves to get the victory.
Tuesday night’s home finale with North Shore was postponed when Two Harbors scrapped school activities because of heavy snow in the region.
The game will be made up at 6 p.m. Monday at the Ely Arena, serving as the final time on the home ice for the Wolves’ seniors and an opportunity for Ely to serve notice that it could be a factor in the early rounds of the Section 7A playoffs, which start at home sites Feb. 21.
“It’s a really big measuring stick for us,” said Johnson. “We’re playing against a really good North Shore team which will be a highly-seeded teams. We need to prove ourselves, and it would be a mentally positive thing going into playoffs in a week or two.”