Junior hockey: Marquette Royales drop national opener despite scoring in first minute

SIMSBURY, Conn. – The Marquette Royales hockey team has likely slipped into a must-win situation after losing its opening game at the USA Hockey Junior Tier III National Championship tournament on Thursday.

The Royales fell to the Helena, Mont., Bighorns, 6-2, despite scoring the first goal just 42 seconds into the game.

Anthony Casaletto recorded his 32nd goal of the season to stake Marquette (42-11) to a 1-0 lead with assists going to Robby Gervino and Trevor Givens of Hancock. Gervino is one of three 100-point scorers for the Royales this season.

Marquette returns to action at 4 p.m. today against the New Hampshire Junior Monarchs, who lost to the Boston Junior Bruins 5-3 on Thursday.

Each of these teams is likely in a must-win situation as just the winner of each four-team pool advances along with a single wild-card from among the nine other teams.

On Thursday, Helena answered Casaletto’s early goal with two of their own before the first period ended to take the lead, part of six unanswered Bighorn goals that put the game well out of reach by the time Marquette scored again with 4:27 remaining.

The Royales’ final goal came off the stick of Lane King, who entered the game as the team’s leading scorer with 133 points, and was assisted by Jeff Salzbrunn, a 70-point scorer.

Helena got two goals from Sebastian Hansson and one each from Nick Okada, Theo Campe, Corbin Belling and Logan Henne off Marquette goalie Nate Eminger, who entered the game with a 2.98 goals-against average and .912 saves percentage while compiling a 17-5 record.

The Bighorns scored on two of their three power plays, though they didn’t score after Marquette’s Matt Marcin was called for a five-minute major for boarding and 10-minute game misconduct near the midpoint of the third period.

Both of the Royales’ goals came at even strength.