2/17/2017 9:58:00 AM Vikings wrap up regular season with 4-1 win over CL in hotly contested game
Nick Fairbanks wins a faceoff for North Branch on Thursday, February 16.
Trevor Mellon celebrates the 4-1 win over Chisago Lakes with his teammates.
Tim Moll scored at 9:08 of the third period to break a 1-1 tie and give the North Branch Vikings their first lead of the game over the Chisago Lakes Wildcats. The Vikings added two more goals in the last two minutes of the game for a 4-1 win over the Wildcats before a standing room only crowd of over 1,000 on Thursday, February 16 at Chisago Lakes Arena. It was officially a home game for the Wildcats, but the crowd was split about 50-50 between fans of the two teams.
The Wildcats dominated play throughout most of the first period and were rewarded when Tate Swanson scored on a rebound at 12:50 to give the Wildcats a 1-0 lead. Thomas Overgaard and Chase Hemme got the assists. The play evened out in the second period. Midway through the period, the Vikings rushed the puck into the zone. From the lower left circle, Jacob Richards passed the puck to Cody Moline standing on the doorstep to the right. Moline got off a quick shot, and Wildcat goalie Brooks Stangl made a nice save. The rebound slid to the left side of the crease and Joe Fabini knocked it into the next to tie the game at 1-1 at 8:52.
Three minutes later, the Vikings were killing off a penalty. One of the Viking players poked at the puck at the right point and knocked it across the blue line. The Vikings ended up with a three-on-zero rush into the left half of the Wildcat zone. But they didn’t spread out and none of them seemed to want to touch the puck as it slid towards the net – they were each waiting for one of the other two to do something with it. Eventually, one of them picked up the puck and shot it, but Stangl was in position for an easy save. The Vikings had blown a golden opportunity to take the lead. Late in the period, the Wildcats iced the puck and there was a faceoff to the left of Stangl with 9.6 seconds left in the period. Nick Fairbanks won the faceoff and pulled the puck back and the Vikings got off a quick shot on goal. Stangl made the save and stopped a rebound before the horn sounded with the game still tied after two.
The Vikings had just five shots in the third period, but made the most of them. When Moll scored to give the Vikings a 2-1 lead at 9:08 of the third period, assisted by Jensen, the Viking half of the arena erupted. At 12:48, Viking Ryan Byrkit took a two-minute minor for high sticking. With just under a minute to go in the penalty, the Wildcats started firing shot after shot at Viking goalie Trevor Mellen. But he was up to the onslaught, stopping several shots and knocking away a couple of loose pucks before tipping a shot over the boards to stop the clock with 2:19 left in the game and seven seconds left on the Wildcat power play. The Wildcats called their timeout. They pulled the goalie for the extra attacker.
The Wildcats controlled the puck on the ensuing faceoff. After about 30 seconds, the puck was along the right boards in the Wildcat zone. The puck popped out of the zone along the boards. Nick Jensen chased it down and, with a Wildcat player bearing down on him, shot it from the left point into the empty net to put the Vikings up 3-1. Fairbanks scored 18 seconds later, assisted by Byrkit and Brady Meyer, to put the finishing touch on a 4-1 Vikings win. Hockey Hullaballoo The Wildcats outshot the Vikings 26-20 for the game.
A likely scenario will have the Wildcats and the Vikings both opening the Section 5A playoffs against lower-seeded opponents at home at Chisago Lakes Arena on Thursday, February 23. Games times and official locations will be posted here in the next few days when seedings become final.