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January 18, 2019

12/6/2018 5:05:00 PM
Vikings start well in tourney before dropping M8C contest to St. Francis

North Branch 5, Minnesota River 1
Five different Vikings scored in the season opener against Minnesota River at the Simley Turkey Trot last weekend, as the Vikings rolled over the Bulldogs 5-1.  “We were really dependent on two goal scorers last year,” said Viking head coach Matt Cottingham, referring to Cody Moline, who graduated, and UMD-commit Brady Meyer, who moved on to juniors.  “The game went better than I thought it would.  It’s always nice to win with such a young team.”  The game was played Friday, November 23 at Veterans Arena in Inver Grove Heights.

Matt Courtright scored on a rebound six minutes into the first period, assisted by Jake Richards and Cody Croal, to put the Vikings up 1-0.  The Vikings took a commanding lead in the second period.  Joey Kirchner scored at the 1:43 mark, with an assist going to Tucker Sachs, to make it 2-0.  And a couple of minutes later, Croal scored to make it 3-0.  Richards and Courtright picked up the assists.

The Bulldogs scored a power play goal at the four-minute mark of the third period to cut the Viking lead to 3-1.  The Vikings put any thoughts of a Bulldog comeback to rest with a couple of quick answers.  Sachs scored at 5:35, assisted by Dawson Johnson and Roger Thomas, to push the Viking lead back to three.  And just 40 seconds later, Richards scored his first goal of the season to give the Vikings a 5-1 lead.  Alex Langevin picked up the assist.  The Vikings shut down Minnesota River from that point on to come away with the win.  Cottingham said “Our last four goals in this one came from great puck movement.  Working the zone, we got the other team chasing, found open ice and put the puck in the net.”

“We have nine freshman and sophomores on our team,” said Cottingham.  “The kids battled and kept getting better as the game went along.  We got great goaltending from Jake Turek, our defense played well, getting more and more odd man rushes and out top two lines can absolutely fly.  I thought we took care of business pretty well for the first game.”  Turek stopped 27 of the 28 shots he faced as the Vikings outshot the Bulldogs 36-28.
North Branch 5, Simley 3
The first period of last Saturday’s win over Simley will forever be known as the Tucker Sachs Extravaganza.  Sachs scored three goals consecutively in the period for a pure hat trick to give the Vikings a 3-0 lead, and they went on to beat the Spartans 5-3 in their second game of the Turkey Trot at Veteran’s Arena.  “That is probably one of the best periods we have played since I have been coach,” said Viking head coach Matt Cottingham.  “We just came out swinging.  It was complete domination.  We were in their zone for minutes on end and put on constant pressure.  Tucker is just a sophomore, but he is one heck of a player.”

Sachs opened the scoring just over two minutes into the first period.  He had a mini-breakaway, faked one way, got the goalie to commit and put it behind him for a 1-0 lead.  Dawson Johnson got the assist.  Six minutes later, a great passing play led to Sachs’ second goal, assisted by Johnson and Alex Langevin.  And Sachs completed his hat trick with a shorthanded goal right at the 12-minute mark to put the Vikings up 3-0.  Jake Richards picked up the assist.  Richards scored the only goal of the second period, at 8:01, to increase the Viking lead to 4-0.  It looked like the Vikings would have another dominant win.

But Simley had other ideas, helped along by some Viking penalties.  At the 2:33 mark of the third period, Viking Kade Koecher was called for cross checking a Simley player right into the Viking net and goalie Jake Turek.  Not only did Koecher get called for a penalty, but the hit damaged Turek’s helmet and the Vikings had to use their time out to fix the helmet so Turek could stay in the game.  Simley scored a power play goal just 17 seconds later to cut the Viking lead to 4-1.  Simley took a penalty at the 10:15 mark to give the Vikings a power play, but the power play was short-lived as Alex Langevin took an interference penalty just 17 seconds later.  The Spartans scored a four-on-four goal with just a few seconds left in their penalty to cut the Viking lead to 4-2.  The Spartans pulled their goalie late in the period.  Zach Larson took a slashing penalty for the Vikings with 26 seconds left in the game.  Simley scored just four seconds later to cut the Viking lead to 4-3.  But they had basically run out of time.  Matt Courtright added an unassisted empty-netter with one second left on the clock to make the final score 5-3.

Cottingham said “In the third period, we took some dumb penalties.  We also sat back on our heels and coasted instead of playing the way we had in dominating the first period.  We still won, so hopefully it turned out to be a good learning tool for us.”

St. Francis 4, North Branch 2
The Viking ran into a hot St. Francis goalie last Tuesday, November 27.  The Vikings outshot the Fighting Saints 36-24, but St. Francis goalie Caleb Young stopped 34 of the 36 shots he faced to lead the Fighting Saints to a 4-2 win.  The game was played at East Bethel Ice Arena.

St. Francis scored four minutes into the first period to take a 1-0 lead.  Cody Croal answered for the Vikings with a power play goal at 10:56 to tie the game at 1-1.  Joey Kirchner and Jake Richards picked up the assists.  It looked like the score would remain tied after two periods, but the Fighting Saints scored with just 11 seconds left in the period to take a 2-1 lead.

29 seconds into the third period, North Branch again answered.  Matt Courtright scored, assisted by Justin Sachs, to make the score 2-2.  But St. Francis scored twice in two minutes midway through the period and skated away with a 4-2 win.

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