3/9/2018 1:50:00 PM Monticello spoils North Branch's shot at state hockey tournament
In last Thursday’s Section 5A Championship Game between the Vikings and the Monticello Magic, Monticello’s Jack Saunders scored on a shot from the right point to break a 1-1 tie at 13:12 of the third period. Monticello added two more goals, including an empty-netter with five seconds left, to make the final score 4-1. The loss ended the best season in North Branch High School hockey history. Monticello will go to the state tournament for the second year in a row. The game was played at Elk River Ice Arena.
With the score tied 1-1, the Vikings took a penalty at 10:44 of the third period. They killed off the penalty, but the puck remained deep in the Viking zone. The puck got pushed to the front of the net and a scramble ensued. Monticello’s Matt Miller passed the puck out to Saunders at the right point and Saunders fired it home at 13:12 to put the Magic up 2-1. The Vikings kept the pressure on. With just over two minutes to go in the game, they attempted to make a pass across the ice just outside the Monticello zone. A Monticello player tipped the puck and it slid down the right side into the Viking zone. The Magic’s Jeffrey Henrikson won the race to the puck just inside the Viking blue line, skated through the dot in the right circle, crossed in front of the net and, from the left side, pushed the puck past a sliding Mellen at exactly the 15 minute mark to give the Magic a 3-1 lead and some cushion. The empty-netter near the end was just icing on the cake for the Magic.
The Vikings had the best scoring chance in the first period. With about five minutes remaining, a shot from mid-slot made it past the goalie but hit the crossbar. The Magic swept away the rebound and the game stayed scoreless.
At the beginning of the second period, Monticello got the puck deep in the Viking zone. Matt Miller came around the back of the next and tried to stuff it inside the left post. Viking goalie Trevor Mellen stayed tight to the post and stopped the attempt, but the puck bounced in front of the net. No Viking defensemen were there and Henrikson took a whack at it and knocked it into the net to put the Magic up 1-0 39 seconds into the period.
The Magic took a penalty at 6:26 of the second period. The Vikings created some great scoring chances on the power play, but the Magic kept the puck out of the net. Cody Moline passed the puck to Cody Croal along the left half wall in the Magic zone just as the penalty expired. Croal relayed the puck to Brady Meyer at the top of the right circle. Meyer fired the puck into the upper left corner of the net to tie the game at 1-1.
Monticello was called for a roughing penalty at the end of the second period, so the Vikings started the third period on the power play. They controlled the puck well with the man advantage. Twice, Meyer carried the puck behind the net and passed it out front to Jake Richards standing just outside the crease. But Richards was not able to convert either time and the score remained tied. With about 15 seconds left in the power play, Croal took a penalty for slashing the goalie’s glove after the whistle blew, ending the power play.
After the Vikings killed off the ensuing Monticello power play, they dominated play for most of the rest of the period and had some great scoring chances. With just under ten minutes to go, they put a flurry of shots against Monticello goalie Tyler Klatt, but he stopped everything, and the score stayed tied.
Viking head coach Matt Cottingham said “The first period was the tale of two different teams, as far as our play goes. We came out playing nervous, settled down a little bit and then played really well. Our only great scoring chance in that period hit the crossbar. In the second period, they scored first and we answered. Then we took over the play until the last four minutes of the game. It’s a tough thing. It would be easier to go away from a game we lost 4-1 if the team had truly dominated us. It’s a lot harder knowing that. for at least 30 minutes of the game, we pretty much took it to them. As a coach, you feel heartbreak for the kids. All the work they put in, the first time we reached quite a few milestones for our program and then coming up just short of going to state. We did so many good things throughout the season. This was definitely a great steppingstone for our program. And honestly, if you had told me at the beginning of the season that we were going to go 22-6, I would have told you we were going to state. I knew we were going to be good, but the players exceeded my expectations.”