3/2/2017 4:41:00 PM Wildcats get sweet revenge,
end North Branch's season
A raucous standing room only crowd of over 1,200 people for last Saturday night’s section 5A semifinal game at Chisago Lakes Arena saw the third-seeded Chisago Lakes Wildcats take a 4-1 lead over the second-seeded North Branch Vikings early in the third period. The Wildcats then withstood an intense Viking attack before coming away with a 4-3 win and a trip to their third section final game in the last four years. That game is tonight versus the Monticello Magic at 7 p.m. at the arena in Elk River.
A bizarre goal got the Vikings on the scoreboard at 11:07 of the first period. The referees called a delayed penalty on the Vikings in their own zone, so Wildcat goalie Jesse Carlson skated off for an extra attacker. One of the Wildcat forwards whipped the puck from behind the net out to the right point.
But the puck sailed through the point and all the way down the ice, banging off the end boards and coming out to the middle of the right circle. A Wildcat forward went back to play the puck to a teammate on the left side. But he got a little careless and instead accidentally shot the puck into his own net to give the Vikings a 1-0 lead. Brady Meyer, the player who was assessed the delayed penalty, ended up being credited with the goal since he was the last Viking player to touch the puck before the Wildcats scored on themselves. But Wildcat Andrue Trelstad picked up his crestfallen teammate just over a minute later. With the Wildcats skating on the ensuing power play, Trelstad picked up a loose puck at his own blue line and blazed down the right ride of the ice. The Viking defense failed to push Trelstad to the outside as he sped towards the net. Trelstad took the puck to the doorstep and shoved it past Viking goalie Trevor Mellen to tie the game at 1-1.
The score stayed that way until the 12:44 mark of the second period. Wildcat Thomas Overgaard won a faceoff in the left circle in the Viking zone. Severi Sinkonnen fired a shot on goal. Mellen made the save, but Cooper Hoheisel was there to put away the rebound and the Wildcats led 2-1. And just 70 seconds later, the Viking defense coughed up the puck in front of their own net. In the ensuing scramble, Jace Meierhoff knocked it into the net for the Wildcats to put them up 3-1. Davin Wahlberg and Chase Hemme picked up assists on the play. The Vikings won a faceoff deep in the Wildcat zone with 7.5 seconds left in the period. Meyer got off a quick shot that glanced off the outside of the right post, keeping the score at 3-1 after two.
Three minutes into the third period, Wildcat Darin Krueger passed the puck back to Sinkonnen at the left point. Sinkonnen ripped a slapshot towards the Viking net. A Viking player blocked it hallway to the net. Sinkonnen followed the puck into the left circle and snapped it top shelf into the back of the net to give the Wildcats a 4-1 lead and what looked like the death blow for the Vikings But Nick Fairbanks gave the Vikings some life with a goal at 5:55, assisted by Ryan Byrkit and Conner Lee, to cut the Wildcat lead to 4-2. The Vikings, led by Meyer, turned up the heat. Carlson was up to the task. He made several nice saves to protect the two-goal lead.
With 2:41 left in the game, Overgaard was called for a penalty. The Vikings called their timeout and pulled Mellen for and extra attacker. The Vikings put on a lot of pressure on the ensuing power play, forcing Carlson to make two or three more nice saves. The Wildcats withstood the challenge. Just ten seconds after the penalty expired, Meyer scored on a great shot from the top of the right circle to cut the Wildcat lead to 4-3. It was too little, too late, though, as the Wildcats didn’t allow a shot for the last 30 seconds and hung on for the win.
The Vikings outshot the Wildcats 32-29 in this one. Wildcat goalie Jesse Carlson played the best game of his career, stopping 29 of the 31 shots he faced. Viking goalie Trever Mellen played well, stopping 25 shots.
Wildcat head coach Paul Gibson said “This was clearly one of the most exciting games in my coaching career. The fan support was unbelievable on both sides. Sadly, the season had to end for North Branch. It's tough to see mainly because of my friendships with their coaching staff. I have the utmost respect for their entire team. I was particularly proud of our goaltending. Our goaltending coaches Tim Zaruba and Brady Peterson have been working with our goalies to have short memories after giving up goals, and staying focused for the entire game.”
Viking head coach Matt Cottingham was disappointed with his team’s uneven performance “You can’t start playing in the third period and expect to win the game,” he said. “Their first two goals shouldn’t have happened. In my heart, I still feel like we were the better team. But we were not the better team on the ice tonight.” He wished the Wildcats good luck in tonight’s section final game. Cottingham was asked about the playing time for Brady Meyer, who seemed to be on the ice about two-thirds of the time for the Vikings. Cottingham said “I kept asking him if he wanted to go back out there and he kept saying ‘put me out there, coach.’”
Looking ahead to the section finals, Gibson said “it should be an outstanding game, given that we had two one-goal games against Monticello this season. Emotions will be high. The key for us is to keep the play in front of us and limit scoring opportunities to the outside. On the flip-side, we need to drive the net and battle for rebounds. Both teams will need solid goaltending. One thing is for sure, our boys are ready for this challenge!”